Students react to controversial advertising
Some MVNU students were surprised and offended to find feminine products with printed sayings of rape culture posted on walls and doors around campus a couple weeks ago.
The unique advertisements were promoting an M2540 Justice Talk on sexism taking place in the Barn.
Catie Hayes, MVNU’s director of community and international ministries, cleared up the confusion and controversy brought about by the ads.
She said students meant no ill intent or malice from this propaganda.
“It was an idea we had, then we decided not to do it,” Hayes said. “There was some miscommunication, and then it happened anyway.”
The feminine products were stuck on walls and doors campus-wide, even on a mirror in the female restroom of Galloway Hall. Hayes and others saw and removed those posted on the Campus Center building, but the products left behind a sticky residue.
However, the Student Life staff was not aware of the advertisements over all of campus.
The office received multiple emails and complaints about the propaganda all day from community members, faculty and staff, and even other students.
While many students said they were uncomfortable with seeing such products posted openly around campus, others said they thought it was a good marketing tactic.
“It didn't affect me in a negative way,” said senior Zach Edwards. “I saw it as a means to draw attention to this talk, and it made me question previously held beliefs about the topic.”
The ads did not go through the MVNU approval process, which requires all promotional materials for campus events to be okayed by Student Life before being posted
The campus policy, found on page 61 of the 2016-17 Student handbook, says, "Posters and other materials, which are to be displayed on campus, must be pre-approved and stamped by the Office of Student Life.”
MVNU Vice President of Student Life Joe Noonen explained the importance of using only Student Life-sanctioned advertisements for campus events.
When Student Life reviews advertisement requests, it “provides an opportunity to dialogue about who we are and how what we do ought to reflect the common and shared values of this community,” Noonen said.
This commitment to community “allows us to bring out the best in each other and when practiced, helps shape the Christ-like character towards which we strive,” he said.
The event was organized and supported by Justice Talk and M2540 with approval from Student Life. The purpose was to bring awareness to the issue of sexism and how, in everyday life, males and females both perpetuate and experience sexism.
Organizers hoped to create an open atmosphere of conversation to counter the sexist attitudes and behaviors prevalent in American culture. The event included a panel of men and women who shared how they have seen sexism affect their lives and the lives of others.
Roughly 80 students attended the discussion. It is unclear whether the controversy over the advertisements helped or hurt attendance.
“I think it did both,” Hayes said. “I think it brought awareness to it happening . . . before that it was a much smaller group that knew about it.”
But, at the same time, “I think it did negatively impact people to believe we were only going to talk about rape and rape culture and the only way we were going to do that was in a harsh way,” she said.
Some who attended the event said the presenters shared a compelling message that needs to be heard despite the controversy over the advertising.
“The talk was an awesome experience and should not be criticized or discounted based on people's reaction to the way in which it was advertised,” Edwards said.
Senior Caleb Gibbs said he was disappointed in students who tried to turn the event into an argument because of their reaction to the ads.
“I thought the presenters were very prepared and respectful in the face of many people being rude to them because of the controversial advertisements,” Gibbs said.
The negative responses to the event “proved its necessity to me,” he said. “Instead of just listening to the panel talk about how sexism had affected their lives, some people spoke up and tried to diminish the experiences of the women who had shared.”