It is common for a college town to be decked out in banners during Homecoming week, but this year, the messages on them say more than, “Go Cardinals!”
Instead, banners wielding mottos like, “No doesn’t mean change my mind” and “It is not consent if they are too afraid to say no,” are hanging from the 12 Interfraternity Council (IFC) fraternity houses.
IFC vice president of public relations Adam VanDam said in an email that, as a community, members of IFC recognized they needed to take a stance and begin positive steps on the issue of sexual assault awareness and consent education.
The IFC released the following statement about the campaign:
“As an interfraternity community, it is our job to exemplify the motto of ‘Step In and Speak Up’ and to help put an end to sexual assault on our campus and the surrounding community. We as a community have taken this action as a stepping-stone to showing support, knowledge, and a drive for more education on the issue in hopes to put an end to these acts. We acknowledge that this is NOT the solution to a larger issue but a step in the right direction. Our thoughts are with all survivors.”
Since the beginning of the semester, there have been four Public Safety Advisory emails regarding sexual assault sent to campus members: a report of sexual assault in the 1100 block of West Riverside Avenue, two reports of sexual assault in on-campus residence halls and an attempted sexual assault outside Emens Auditorium.
Sigma Phi Epsilon president Alex Robinson said in an email that his fraternity put up its “NO does not mean CONVINCE ME” banner to let the campus community know that the Sigma Phi Epsilon house is a safe space on campus.
“The men of SigEp will always be dedicated to fighting against sexual assault, and will continue to promote our message throughout the community,” Robinson said. “We understand that sexual assault is a huge issue, but it is a fight worth fighting for.”
“We understand that sexual assault is a huge issue, but it is a fight worth fighting for.”
Peyton Sturgill, Phi Sigma Kappa president, agreed with Robinson, and said various Greek Life programs such as Greek Peer Advocates can help bring awareness to sexual assault and support to survivors.
“Bringing up the conversation that this is a problem, not only in Greek Life, not only on Ball State’s campus, not only in Muncie, but also in today’s society is important,” Sturgill said. “I think this is a problem that way too much, people don’t want to talk about because it is a very touchy subject. Nobody wants to talk about sexual assault because it brings up bad memories, but it is something we need to bring up as a community to start moving forward in a better direction.”
For Lambda Chi Alpha president, Micah Germann, the fraternity’s banner, which reads “Silence does not mean consent,” is a way to help educate.
“Throughout my entire life I never really heard that. Nobody every outlined, ‘This is consent, this is not consent,’ so now at a college level, we’re kind of playing catch up,” Germann said. “Both people need to be sober. They need to be able to make that conscious decision … If anybody missed that education, they’re getting it now. Ignorance of the law doesn’t excuse you.”
In addition to the banners, Germann said Lambda Chi hosts a Sexual Assault Awareness week each semester. That week will begin Monday and will feature a self-defense course for women that is taught by University Police. Additionally, a variety of flyers and literature will be passed out to educate Ball State members on sexual assault.
While VanDam said this campaign is important, he said IFC recognizes it is “in no way the solution to a bigger issue.”
“This is us striving for a beginning step in the right direction and for a push of more education on the topic of sexual assault awareness and consent education,” he said.
Initially, the banners were meant to just be up for Homecoming, but after the positive response from the community, Robinson said Sigma Phi Epsilon has decided to keep its up as long as sexual assault is still an issue on campus.