Sexual Harassment at ODU
Over freshmen move-in at Old Dominion University on August 21, “(un)-welcome” banners hung from the balcony of the Sigma Nu Fraternity house. Two of these banners read “Rowdy and Fun hope you baby girl is ready for a good time…” and “Freshman daughter drop off…Go ahead and drop off mom too.”
Since the controversy of the banners occurred that weekend, the national organization of Sigma Nu announced on August 24 that it has suspended all activities of ODU’s Eta Chi chapter. The official statement from the national organization was posted on ODU’s Facebook page and read that the chapter was suspended “pending completion of an investigation into the offensive banners displayed from an off-campus property…the fraternity condemns the derogatory and demeaning language used on the banners. The banners were not removed until later that day when staff was notified. According to a sophomore on campus at ODU, Rachel Holiday, parents were outraged and demanded the banners be removed and threatened to pull their student out of the school.
Considering sexual assault on college campuses has been a hot topic for the past year it is worth noting that ODU was not the only campus this school year with fraternities posting derogatory banners. In fact, banners with sexual statements on move-in day appear to a long tradition on certain campuses. Recently students at Western Virginia University posted banners with sexist remarks and this year at Ohio State University banners hung from an unaffiliated house stating “Dads, we’ll take it from here,” and “Daughter Daycare 2.0”
A senior, Alex Sheets, living in the Ohio State house commented to an Ohio news station, “People have been saying we are misogynists, we are sexist, we are degrading towards women…we are just trying to have some fun.”
Obviously the banners were removed and the university released a statement regarding the actions stating “this behavior is not reflective of the values and standards of The Ohio State University…our priority is to provide a safe, healthy, positive environment.”
Unfortunately, the banner incidents at ODU and Ohio State are not isolated events. Just last year, Bowling Green University passed a resolution to “impose sanctions” on students who display sexist signs. For decades during move-in week at this school it has been tradition to display signs such as “We’ll trade beer for girls.” Similarly, last year Georgia Southern University’s chapter of Delta Sigma Phi displayed a banner reading “21 to drink, 18ish to spend the night.” That phrase was followed with “#momsdrinkforfree.”
The problem here is that it is uncertain how universities will punish this type of behavior. According to the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education, any sanctions against students at OSU and ODU would be unconstitutional because they are public institutions. Currently, college campuses are becoming more aware of gender-based violence and harassment that is happening. It is the time where condemning messages, such as these banners, will no longer go unnoticed and rightly so. It is time to end this demeaning tradition.