Campus Opinion The Counter Opinion: Ongoing fight against sexual assault on campus amplified by explicit Welcome Weekend banners By The New Political Posted on August 29, 2019 14 min read 0 1 411 Graphic by Maggie Prosser This Welcome Weekend, some students hung banners on off-campus housing that contained vulgar and sexual messages, directed at incoming students and their parents, coincidentally following the release of Ohio University’s newest app “Bobcat Safe,” which attempts to combat sexual assault. Photos of these signs went viral on Twitter. This week, we’ve asked our opinion writers to discuss what action, if any, should be taken by the university on these banners, and if they believe that the Bobcat Safe app is a step in the right direction. Contributing are Maddie Kramer, a junior political science major, Katie Nolan, a junior environmental studies major and Charlotte Caldwell, a sophomore journalism major. What should Ohio U do to ensure that these banners aren’t replicated? Maddie: Seeing banners go viral on Twitter that display vulgar and sexually explicit language from fraternities at our school is definitely not a good look for the university. One fellow Twitter user responded asking what university the banners were coming from, so they would know “where to not hire people from.” While these banners are nothing new, they still cast Ohio U in a bad light. However, the university has little to no control over things like this that happen on off-campus housing. The best way for these signs to be taken care of is by calling the non-emergency police number and reporting them. Most of the banners displayed are not following Athens city code and alerting the police ensures that the proper officials can come ask the homeowners to remove the banner. Katie: One logical way to deal with the crude banners is to enforce code law. The Office of Community Engagement Programs at Ohio U work during Welcome Week to inform students about banner and sign code, hoping to deter banners with insensitive messages. The city of Athens requires a permit for signs or banners on housing units, and those permits come with a price. It takes time to get permits approved, and they cost about $50. If those who put up banners do not comply with Athens code, they risk of being cited for violating city code and may be required to pay a fine. However, on a greater scale, it will take more than code enforcement to ensure that these banners are eradicated. The culture of lewd banners on Welcome Weekend will take cooperation from off-campus students who were subjected to these banners as first-year students. The best action to take is to recognize that we are better than these banners as a collective. Charlotte: Ohio U needs to start by getting the administration to acknowledge that the situation is more serious than they portray it to be. The administration has always been hesitant to officially respond to the sexual assault issue — possibly because there is little that they can say to make people feel more confident about the situation without some form of effective prevention to back it up. When President Duane Nellis has been quoted as saying that the situation “isn’t unique to Ohio University,” it’s an indication that the administration needs to change their way of thinking in order for prevention to work. The fraternities that are hanging these banners also need to understand potential consequences in the form of administrative action so they will take it seriously. They may not be able to do much about the banners themselves because it is off-campus housing, but the fraternities are still under Ohio U’s jurisdiction. Do you think Ohio U has a “rape culture” stigma? Maddie: Despite Ohio U dropping in the “party school” rankings, the culture and stigma are still alive and well. These banners verify this sentiment. The amount of reported sexual assaults last year within the “red zone” — the first few weeks of school — also enhance the claim that Ohio U has a prevalent rape culture. However, many students have been working to combat this stigma. From the “It’s On Us, Bobcats” rally last year, to the sororities displaying banners preaching consent this year, it is obvious that the student body wants to shake the stigma. It will take continued action from students such as this to create change and remove that label. Katie: Ohio U has always been acknowledged as a “party school” and the university made national news last fall with its large number of reported sexual assaults. With these two factors alone, not to mention other instances — including a death — it is evident that Ohio U has a rape culture problem. Banners like those that went viral during Welcome Weekend only perpetuate this problem. The deluge of sexual assault reports that happened less than a year ago at Ohio U, yet banners perpetuating messages of rape culture still hang across off-campus housing neighborhoods. The fact that this still occurs even when Ohio U notoriously has these issues is disrespectful to new students, particularly women, and action must be taken to address Ohio U’s rape culture problem by addressing smaller instances like the banners. Charlotte: Ohio U has a prevalent “rape culture” stigma, especially in the eyes of the public outside of Athens. Last year, Ohio U made national news multiple times from outlets such as USA Today because of a spate of sexual assaults reported in such a short time frame. Now, with the viral tweets, it puts every student that attends Ohio U in a bad light. More action needs to be taken about this issue to ensure that the university is more welcoming to incoming students. With the bad publicity that the university is receiving, admission rates will only continue to decrease as the years progress. Will the Bobcat Safe app make a difference on campus? Maddie: The Bobcat Safe app developed by Student Senate and the university is a good attempt at creating a sense of security for students. Many other colleges have safety apps such as LifeLine Response, which is used by Ohio State University and the University of Toledo, and MyForce, which is used by the University of Mississippi. Bobcat Safe employs many of the same ideas and tactics while being specific to Athens and Ohio U. While some of the parts of the app seem redundant, like a flashlight, there are also parts of the app that may be useful for someone in crisis who does not know where to begin. Through the app, students will be able to connect with the Survivor Advocacy Program hotline, which can give them direction about where to go and what to do if they have been in a crisis. However, there is room for improvement in other parts of the app that don’t seem as useful. Katie: The Bobcat Safe app is a step in the right direction. One of the biggest obstacles in terms of its effectiveness will be spreading awareness about the app and what it can offer. Continued usage with active participants will indicate how successful Bobcat Safe will be. An effective feedback system within the app is the best way to help students at Ohio U who experience safety issues. Charlotte: The app doesn’t seem like it will make much of a difference, besides helping the university save face. Besides the “walk with a friend” feature that allows someone to track the user’s phone on a map as they walk to their destination, there are not many useful features on the app that aren’t already easily accessible apps on most phones. It seems like an added hassle to have to find the app, then click through multiple sub categories in the app if it was an emergency situation. Please note that these views and opinions do not reflect those of The New Political.