UW-La Crosse administration responds to controversial student banner

Published: Sep. 6, 2016 at 5:27 PM CDT
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UW-La Crosse's Violence Prevention Specialist fears that a student-made banner near campus could be interpreted as a threat to victims of sexual violence.

UW-La Crosse officials say that they received reports Friday night of a banner displayed at an off-campus student apartment which read, "Free Cream Pies w/ Valid Freshman ID."

They say several male students were also reportedly taunting females walking by.

Later, when another student posted pictures of the banner on Facebook, it went viral, being shared nearly 2,000 times by Tuesday afternoon and sparking discussion online and on campus.

"For someone to feel unsafe and unwelcome in a very pivotal point in their life is sad and shouldn't be the case," said Carly Emmel, a UW-La Crosse senior.

"It gives a negative view of girls and how we treat them on our campus," said Noah Dahl, a UW-La Crosse freshman.

"The lack of empathy and reflection that they've had about it -- a little disturbing," said Dahli Durley, who is not a UW-L student but lives in La Crosse.

There's no word on the motive for the sign, but UW-L's Violence Prevention Specialist says it could make victims of sexual violence feel unsafe.

"For people who've been victimized it can create a feeling of unsafety, even for someone who hasn't been victimized it can create a feeling of unsafety," said Ingrid Peterson. "You don't know the individuals, you don't know what they might be intending by that, we understand that they might not have intended anything by it, but it's not always read that way by other people."

Though the banner was removed by the following night, the administration asked UW-La Crosse police to patrol the area for students' safety.

Staff members are trying to reach out to the students who hung the banner and they're also planning to hold an open forum later this year to discuss the issue.

"Words and actions, although they might be legal, and they might be protected, it doesn't mean that they don't have an impact on others, a negative impact, so a lot of our work is in the prevention and helping people to understand," said Paula Knudson, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.

WEAU reached out to the students who UW-L says hung the banner. They did not return a request for comment.