On April 13, admitted students and their families explored campus, learning about the academics, extracurriculars, food options, and social scenes that their potential new home has to offer. During the afternoon Activities Fair – where visitors had the chance to chat with the leaders of the variety of campus events, clubs, and societies – a group of student protesters hung a banner over the entrance of the Gerhard Fieldhouse, where the event was held. The banner, which was removed by Dean of Students Amy Badal and a few current University students, read as follows: “Best Place for Party: ΣΑΕ; ΔΥ; ΚΔΡ; ΦΓΔ; ΣΧ; ΧΦ; ΛΧΑ to Get RAPED Fraternities.” A similar banner raising concerns about high food prices on campus was hung in the uphill entrance to the Elaine Langone Center.
Without a doubt, these causes merit attention at the University, and we do not question the value of student activism – especially on a campus like this one, which can seem overwhelmingly homogeneous. College is a time for students to explore their personal convictions and find causes that they are passionate about. However, student activism is most effective when it takes the form of respectful conversation and directed calls for meaningful change. Using fear tactics and triggering messages is counterproductive in addressing the root causes of these issues at the University.
Additionally, the time and place of student protests is key to the efficacy of their actions. The general consensus seems to be that the Admitted Student Open House was an inappropriate stage for these protests. In fact, the events caused at least one student to rescind her commitment to the University. Further, admitted students and their families should not be the intended audience for these claims. Protests should be directed towards current students and University administrators.
Now, rather than successfully bringing attention to these pivotal issues in a positive way, students and staff are focusing on the controversial aspect of the protest’s timing, which detracts from the actual issues at hand. Making such a public display of these issues as admitted students and their families are evaluating their new home deters students with diverse backgrounds and experiences from attending the University, when these are the groups whose voices need to be amplified in order for our campus culture to grow in a positive direction.
We believe the actions taken by these individuals, while their core intentions may be valiant, were disrespectful and triggering for many survivors of sexual assault. If student groups are going to make these sorts of claims, they should focus on a path forward by providing a clear and comprehensive platform for dialogue with the groups’ members, the administration, and the student body to work together to enact positive change. It must also be noted that sexual assault, unfortunately, is not a problem limited to Greek Life. However, addressing sexual assault on our campus requires the collaboration, not the alienation, of Greek Life chapters.
We at The Bucknellian want to make clear that we agree with the message of these protests; however, we strongly oppose the tactics employed. These are complex and deeply difficult issues that are not properly addressed through blanket statements and shock-value demonstrations, but that instead should be approached in a collaborative and inclusive manner.