Two sexually suggestive signs placed at prominent houses along two of Manhattan’s busiest streets caused an online outrage this weekend as the signs instructed parents of freshman girls to drop them off at those houses.
The signs, which stated “FRESHMAN GIRLS DROP-OFF” — posted at a house at the northwest corner of N. 17th Street and Poyntz Avenue — and “HOPE YOU’RE 18!!” — posted at a house on the northwest corner of N. 11th Street and Bluemont Avenue — were on display briefly Saturday, K-State’s official move-in day. During the day, both streets were congested with the traffic of parents moving in their freshman children.
The initial post, made by graduate student in communications studies and former Collegian staffer Jakki Forester, went viral after Forester saw the sign while driving down Poyntz and uploaded a picture to Snapchat, later uploading the picture to Facebook as well. As of Monday morning, Forester’s post had been shared over 600 times.
Forester said she was deeply angered by the sign and considered walking up to the house to demand it be taken down but reconsidered after realizing she would have to deal with the kind of people who deemed it appropriate to put up such signs in the first place. Forester said an acquaintance later went to ask that the sign be taken down, and it was removed from display shortly after.
A man who claimed to be the owner of the house at N. 17th and Poyntz and who declined to give his name said the sign was only meant to be taken as a joke.
“A friend gave us the idea, and he actually did the same thing at KU,” the man said. “He just gave us the idea to do it because it’d be something funny to do — not serious at all. We thought our friends would think it was funny too, it’s just that we forget that it’s not just college students around us, and a lot of people can get really offended by that.
“We put it up, and we realized how hurtful it can be, in that rape has been going on around here,” the man said. “We just didn’t really associate that vibe with the sign until after we put it up.”
A knock at the door of the house on N. 11th Street and Bluemont Avenue late Sunday afternoon was not answered.
Forester said there was nothing funny about the signs.
“When we make jokes about things that actually manifest themselves in incredibly violent ways, it allows people to think that rape is socially acceptable and allows it to occur,” Forester said. “Not only does it allow it to occur, but then when it hits the criminal justice system and the prison industrial complex, rapists are not prosecuted because they’ve been telling us ‘boys will be boys.’
“It’s not a joke when women are disproportionately affected by rape and sexual assault and other sexually violent crimes, so no, it is not a joke,” Forester continued.
Jeff Morris, vice president for communications and marketing, issued the following email statement to the Collegian regarding the weekend signs:
“The inappropriate signs serve as a reminder that words matter and messages can be hurtful. We want our incoming students to feel welcome and ask that all follow our Principles of Community.”
Forester said the university must do more to prevent such incidences in the first place.
“I think the university has failed its students time and time again in a plethora of ways. The way I predict the university to respond — if it responds at all — they’re going to release a press release on Monday, or maybe Tuesday, and essentially say, “Students should remember K-State’s Principles of Community and that there’s always action behind the Principles of Community,” Forester said.
“What they fail to acknowledge is that they’re not actually giving us action steps to take and putting preventative measures in place and being proactive in their responses to instances like this,” Forester said. “The press release is just covering their butt and making sure that they distance themselves under proper protocol rather than actually making the university and Manhattan community a better place for students, especially female students who may experience sexual violence while at the university.”
The university has come under scrutiny in recent semesters for allegedly failing to properly adhere to Title IX, federal law that prohibits institutions that receive federal funds from discriminating on the basis of sex. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, K-State currently is under five investigations from the federal Department of Education for Title IX violations, with the oldest active case having been opened in August 2014 and the most recent case being opened in March of this year.
Only one other institution, Cornell University, is under more investigations, with six active investigations.
Kansas State University has argued that it cannot investigate sexual assaults and rapes that happen at off-campus locations such as apartments and fraternity houses. However, while the courts have agreed that K-State has no responsibility for incidents that happen in off-campus apartments, the courts have refused to totally dismiss the cases, stating that at locations such as fraternities, “KSU had substantial control over both the alleged assailants and the context of the alleged assaults, and that KSU’s alleged deliberate indifference made Plaintiff liable or vulnerable to further harassment or assaults.”
In response to the court’s statement, the university said that “in reaching this ruling, the Court did not make any factual findings concerning these allegations about the Greek system; instead, the Court simply recited the plaintiffs’ unproven allegations. The university is confident the evidence will demonstrate that K-State did not have substantial control over the context of the alleged sexual assaults.”