The Women’s Studies Program strongly condemns the university’s recent censorship of the anti-sexual harassment exhibit posted in the MUB.
We stand in support of the students who worked with the Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) to stage this creative and brave response to sexual violence on university campuses. The students solicited actual epithets that have been hurled at members of our campus community, and replicated these on the wall outside the MUB’s main offices. Within only hours of the exhibit’s appearance on March 17, the university took it down.
The administration justifies its decision by citing the MUB policy manual (section 8.03): “Any poster with ‘hate speech’ as defined in the Students’ Rights, Rules and Responsibilities will not be posted. Any poster/flyer containing profane/vulgar language is prohibited.” But this was not a “poster,” it was an exhibit. And the language it contained is, indeed, much more than “profane” and “vulgar”: it is real, and it is violent.
By invoking, interpreting and enforcing the MUB policy manual in this way, the university has shut this conversation down, and has done great damage to student and staff attempts to address campus sexual harassment and violence. The university has invested a great deal of resources on public relations campaigns to present itself as taking action on this problem. It would do well to let the people who understand the issue best–SHARPP, and the students who live with and experience the harassment and violence–to have a voice.
The Faculty and Staff of the UNH Women’s Studies Program