UPDATE: Protesting Sexist Signs at WIU
Some members of the Macomb community plan to protest if "disgusting" signs show up as students return to Western Illinois University this week.
The signs -- displayed in past years at off-campus houses-- contain messages such as "Freshman Drop-Off" and "Drop Your Daughters Here."
UPDATE: WIU issued a written statement in response to this report. You can read the statement at the bottom of the story.
Barb Harroun considers those examples of blatant sexism, and she's teaming with Rebekah Buchanan to do something about it. The two women are organizing a demonstration with others if such signs show up again this year.
"In 2011 there was one really offensive documented case where there was a mattress that was spray painted saying 'Freshman Girl Drop-off Oral-tation August 20th,'" said Harroun.
"That reduces incoming female students to sexualized objects."
Buchanan feels such displays make the university look bad.
"We have a lot to be proud of at WIU so we don't want students coming in and having their first experience to be something that doesn't show that pride in Western," Buchanan said.
Harroun and Buchanan both work at WIU and both are mothers of young children. They say if enough people stand up and speak out against the signs, it could bring about a change in the local culture about what is acceptable.
"If the signs do appear, the plan is to peacefully picket during a contained amount of time. We want to adhere to the Macomb ordinances, and keep the picketing respectful and peaceful," said Harroun.
But the women hope their planning goes for naught. They prefer that no such signs appear and the demonstration won't be needed.
WIU issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
The University agrees with the concerns regarding offensive signs that were addressed in a recent interview, and we do not condone such behavior from our students or anyone else. The University dealt with this issue in 2011 during Dr. Thomas' first year as president, and we are not aware of any similar incidents occurring since that time. The students were asked by University staff to remove these signs from their property, and they complied. Should this become an issue this year, we have procedures in place to deal with such behavior.
The Macomb Police Department and the Office of Public Safety are notified of all move-in activities, and will assist with issues that may arise. The University also follows up on any Code of Student Conduct violations that are brought to our attention.
President Thomas, along with the vice presidents and other members of the University staff, visit all of the residents along Adams Street during the first week of the fall semester. We discuss our expectations with the residents, and share information about the Code of Student Conduct.
The threat of demonstrating on this most important day would only serve to magnify this inappropriate behavior by bringing more attention to these actions. The University is disappointed that these concerns were not brought to the president's attention prior to appearing in the media so that the protocols already in place could have been explained.
We strive to protect the reputation and integrity of this institution, and we ask that our students, faculty, and staff assist us with our efforts.