Two banners with the messages “Black Lives Matter” and “Reproductive Justice Now” hung outside the windows of the women’s, gender and sexuality studies department at University Hall for a little over an hour on Tuesday before the Office of Academic Affairs requested they be taken down.
OAA first sent a maintenance employee with a work order to remove the signs on the grounds that they were considered graffiti. When the WGSS faculty explained that they intentionally hung the signs, OAA then requested that they be taken down because they had not been approved based on OSU’s standards regarding signs and banners that are permitted to be displayed on campus.
“The banners were not cleared through OSU’s bureaucratic process based on what they looked like, the colors and fonts used, and how they were displayed,” said Shannon Winnubst, WGSS chair and professor.
Winnubst said that although it was the first time WGSS had tried to hang any type of banner outside its department, OSU’s social work department had hung a “Black Lives Matter” banner outside of Stillman Hall earlier in the year. OAA eventually requested that it be taken down as well, for not meeting OSU’s requirements for acceptable signs to be displayed on campus.
“We just want to make sure that the politics we represent in our classroom and our curriculum is consistent with the politics that we live out in this space, and on this university campus,” said Tess Pugsley, a WGSS program assistant.
Pugsley said the banners were acquired by the department based on student responses the day after the presidential election.
“The day after Donald Trump was elected, we had students coming into our office saying they didn’t know where else to go,” Pugsley said. “It’s very important to our students, and it means a lot to us to send a message that this is a safe space for our students.”
The fact that the banners were hung the day after Monday’s violent attack on campus, however, was merely a coincidence, Winnubst said.
“We hung the banners (Tuesday) because the weather was nice and we finally had time,” she said.
Even though the signs were taken down, some students still expressed their support for them.
“I think it’s really courageous and powerful of the WGSS department to hang those banners from University Hall,” said Marina Siegel, a second-year in WGSS. “It’s important because it shows that the WGSS faculty is welcoming of all people and can be seen as a safety zone for those being targeted on campus.”
Pugsley said the WGSS department plans to revise the banners to meet OSU’s standards and then display them again on the outside of University Hall.
“We want to send a message,” Pugsley said. “We are hopeful that the university would want to send the same message.”