Freshman women at Old Dominion University were given a very special welcome last week when they arrived on campus: Large banners that read “Rowdy and fun/Hope your baby girl is ready for a good time,” “Freshman daughter drop off,” and “Go ahead and drop off mom too.” Photos of the helpful offers to fornicate with women across multiple generations in the university community have since gone viral.
ODU’s administration responded to the signage on August 22, issuing the following statement:
“Messages like the ones displayed yesterday by a few students on the balcony of their private residence are not and will not [be] tolerated. The moment University staff became aware of these banners, they worked to have them removed. At ODU, we foster a community of respect and dignity, and these messages sickened us. They are not representative of our 3,000 faculty and staff, 25,000 students, and 130,000 alumni.
Ours is a community that works actively to promote bystander intervention and takes a stand denouncing violence against women. The ‘It’s on Us’ video is just one example of ODU students’ leadership on this topic.
In addition, the University ensures all students receive education on the prevention of sexual harassment and relationship violence.”
Ellen Neufeldt, Vice President of Student Engagement and Enrollment Services signed her name to this statement.
That same day, Old Dominion’s Student Government Association also issued their own verbal condemnation of the incident. They filmed a video directly addressing the banners and stated:
“An incident occurred this weekend that does not reflect the University’s commitment to the prevention of Sexual Assault and Dating Violence. Not only do these actions taken by a few individuals undermine the countless efforts at Old Dominion University to prevent sexual assault, they are also unwelcoming, offensive, and unacceptable. Over the past year, our community, partners, faculty/staff, and student leaders have stood side-by-side to inform and educate our campus on Sexual Assault prevention. This issue is not new, rather, it is one that continues to be prevalent around the world. It is very important for all of us to take action and be part of the solution! These actions do not reflect the students’ views at Old Dominion University. We encourage YOU to continue to raise awareness, hold each other accountable, take care of one another, and be responsible citizens of the Monarch Community.”
At roughly 9 p.m. on the same day, university president John Broderick sent a message to the university community—also posted to ODU’s Facebook page—emphasizing his outrage over the banners. He concludes with the suggestion that disciplinary action may be taken, though it’s unclear how this behavior will be assessed in the context of the school’s code of conduct:
“I said at my State of the University address that there is zero tolerance on this campus for sexual assault and sexual harassment. This incident will be reviewed by those on campus empowered to do so. Any student found to have violated the code of conduct will be subject to disciplinary action.”
The tipster who sent us a link to one of the originating Facebook post complained that the homemade signage was draped across the balcony of a house where members of a fraternity live. While the house responsible was unidentified in the post, a source on campus told us that several members of Sigma Nu live there. For comparison, here is a photograph from the chapter’s Instagram account (which they’ve since made private). The photo is also used as the header photo in the fraternity’s official Twitter account:
Sigma Nu’s official “vision” is “Excelling with Honor,” their values “Love, Honor, Truth.”
I called the number listed on the Sigma Nu chapter’s Facebook page, hoping to get a statement from the brotherhood. But when I asked if I had reached the chapter’s residence, the individual who answered the phone replied, “No.” Fred Dobry, Sigma Nu’s national Director of Risk Reduction suggested that Sigma Nu members who live in the house were not responsible for the banners outside of their house. He tells Jezebel,
Sigma Nu Fraternity is investigating this matter, and based on what we know at this point, Fraternity members at ODU are not responsible for these offensive banners. While four members of the ODU chapter live in the building where the banners were displayed, initial information indicates individuals not associated with Sigma Nu Fraternity are responsible for the banners. Our investigation is continuing.
Reporters who physically visited the house were also given the dodge. Here’s the Virginian-Pilot:
On Saturday afternoon, spray paint that matched the signs was visible on the driveway of a house in the 1500 block of W. 43rd St., presumably where the paint bled through the banners. The house, across the street from campus, appeared to be the same one pictured in the photograph that circulated on the web.
A man at the house Saturday who declined to be identified said the signs were never hung there. When a reporter pointed out the spray paint on the driveway, he admitted the signs were made there but insisted they were hung at a different house on the street.
A half hour later, the wayward spray paint in the driveway was covered by plywood.
Despite the chapter’s silence, on August 23, Jezebel received email confirmation from ODU Interfraternity Council President Michael Faust that “several fraternity members”—the chapter was not named—were responsible:
“...in response to the incident that occurred on Friday, August 21 in which several fraternity members placed highly offensive banners off their balcony, I would like to make a point that this was an embarrassing, unacceptable action that the general Greek community strongly denounces. The actions of these few fraternity members do not represent the values that they pledged to uphold. The Interfraternity Council’s judicial board will review this incident.”
ODU student Mary Coleman, who originally posted the image to Facebook on Saturday afternoon, wrote in an email: “I feel very strongly about how the attitude towards sexual assault on campuses is met with a slap on the wrist.” She suggests that campus efforts do not reflect the media’s burgeoning focus on systemic sexual violence: “As a woman, it’s frustrating to see the media bring awareness to the issue and then witness something related in your own community/school and see that nothing is changing.”
Coleman’s original post inspired a thread of comments, including a response from the ODU Facebook account. One of the first people to share the photo, with the caption “Gotta love ODU,” was Norfolk police officer Ryan Shepherd.
Twitter’s response to these signs has ranged from amusement:
This isn’t the first time, of course, that frat boys have shown their asses in such a fashion. In 2010, DKE pledges at Yale walked around campus chanting, “No means yes/ Yes means anal,” which Anna North described at this website as a “transparent plea for attention.” Texas Tech frat boys put up a similar sign last year. Over the summer, a Sigma Nu member at the University of Central Florida was caught on video chanting “Let’s rape some sluts,” only months after being accused of sexual assault by a fellow UCF student.
We’re currently awaiting statements from Sigma Nu Fraternity and ODU’s Interfraternity Council, and will keep you updated as things continue to develop.
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