Violence is no joke

Sean Dixon Interpersonal Violence Prevention

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In preparing University staff for the beginning of the Fall ’12 semester, recruitment and retention were the goals held up as high on the priority list. As the newly appointed Interpersonal Violence Prevention Coordinator, I recognize that one of the parts I play in helping to achieve these goals is to address issues on campus that would be perceived as creating an environment of fear with regard to sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence or stalking. It was with this in mind that I chose to confront the students lounging outside their apartment in front of a residence hall. 

What drew my attention on this first move in day was the large yellow banner they chose to display to the public stating, “Drop off freshman girls here.” It is a message that has popped up over the past few years under the guise of clever humor. 

Not surprisingly, my attempt to engage these young men in a discussion about the message was received defensively and cast aside as a harmless joke. They may have even believed that their brazen act somehow showed courage in the face of political correctness. The problem with this perspective is that it fails to take into account the perception that it conveys to students and their parents who expect to be leaving their children in a safe environment. While the message can certainly be seen as a poor attempt at adolescent humor, it has already been seen as a sign of trouble as indicated by calls that were made to the University by concerned parents. 

If we are going to work toward increasing our recruitment and retention rates here at WIU by creating and maintaining a safe environment, we need the students to buy into the goals as well. This is an institution of which we can be proud. So how can students hold one another accountable for behavior that threatens these goals?  

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