With lewd banner, UW-La Crosse students embrace rape culture

Some University of Wisconsin-La Crosse students have joined the growing list of young men at colleges proud to promote a rape culture on campus through stupid signs displayed to incoming freshmen.

A lewd banner promoting a sex act went up on the balcony of an apartment building near the school.

“You may think this was a harmless joke but the reality is that the more we see posts like this online, the more rape culture is normalized in our society,” student Demi Dahl wrote on a Facebook page condemning the photos, which were posted on Instagram by the guys at the building.

“It was a joke,” Colin Griffin, a member of the welcoming committee responded.

Chancellor Joe Gow sent an email to the campus community on the first day of classes on Tuesday.

“I wish my first message to all of you could be a purely positive one; however, I am compelled to speak out against behavior that is contrary to what our University stands for.

“As you may have heard, over the weekend some of our students hung a highly offensive and sexist banner from the balcony of their off-campus apartment. I want all of you to know that UWL strongly condemns this kind of behavior — it is ignorant, it represents our university very poorly, and even if it was meant as a joke, the negative impact on the UWL community is very real.”

The La Crosse Tribune reported the boys got the idea from other pictures of similar signs.

UW-L vice chancellor for student life Paula Knudson said she learned about the incident on Saturday after a number of students reported the banner and its negative impact on the community. She said she has identified the students and reached out to them to have a conversation about the incident and how inappropriate it was.

One of the students who reported the banner was UW-L senior Grace Mortenson, who said she was verbally accosted by the male students on the balcony when she came back to take pictures of the banner. She said she was taken aback when she saw it, and immediately felt uncomfortable and fearful of the impact it would have on others.

“I am disappointed that anyone thought that it was OK or funny,” she said. “This wasn’t just a joke in passing. It was premeditated.”

Bubba Davis, a sophomore at UW-L and one of the residents in the apartment where the banner was hung, said he and his friends came up with the idea after seeing a similar post on a social media site dedicated to fraternity life. He said hanging the banner was obviously a vulgar joke, but the banner only hung during the evening on Friday after move-in hours and he and his friends were sorry that people were hurt by it.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports today that the university’s apology isn’t good enough for one parent.

“This behavior shouldn’t be tolerated by any campus,” said the mother, who declined to be identified for fear her daughter could be targeted for reprisal.

“How would you feel as a parent about dropping your daughter off there?” the mother said. “They shouldn’t have to see something like this when they move into the dorms. We should think about what this says with all the rapes on campuses.”

The mother said that protests have ensued outside the apartment building where the banner appeared, and that others who live in the apartment and were not involved are afraid for their personal safety because reaction against it has been strong.

A university spokesman says the banner is being used as a “teachable moment.”

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