Reading Between The Signs

Banners have graced Morehouse College’s campus for years, some for student organizations, and others to represent the college’s ever-evolving brand. Previously removed, there was once a banner that read, “Consent is Sexy,” which was slightly insensitive to many students. However, this time around, the new banners along Brown Street read differently.

For over a year, since the removal of the “Consent is Sexy” banner, the poles and buildings along Brown Street have gone nude. In many ways, it gave room for students to question whether Morehouse had gone silent on issues regarding sexual assault and gender-based violence.

At some point during the month September, a series of banners were hung along Brown Street, one of the college’s central locations for its students, and students from neighboring institutions: Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University. Each campus has conflicting emotions and responses to the banners.

Making sure to not act too soon and respond with another banner, Michael Gary, Project and Operations Manager for the Division of Student Development, strategized to assure that the new banners around campus addressed a number of issues that concern students and faculty alike.

“We’re not going to jump the gun and respond, because we can get it wrong – we have to be careful,” he said. “You all hold us to every single word.”

The banners were one of the better ways to be authentic about the issues at hand and start the initial conversation, but they are also hung on Brown Street to remove all barriers for the students, as it relates to access and visibility. Rather than putting it up online or in the student handbook, the visual campaign is an effort to leave no room for confusion.

“We’re just trying to make sure that we’re in a better place to offer the student services provided. The work that we do, per the mission of the college, starts with you; but, it engages the world.”

However, the banners, obscure as they are, have led some students to be puzzled.

“They are [the banners] exactly what Dr. Cynthia Neal Spence talked about in Crown Forum,” Jordan Mulkey said, a junior English major. “They are rhetoric without practice.”

It’s one gesture to speak about sexism, ableism, homophobia and even transphobia, but until the policies reflect it – they’re empty promises.

Among all of the banners, there comes one, which reads “A Man of Morehouse Has His Sisters’ Back,” and it oddly hangs directly on the side of Brawley Hall where the “Consent Is Sexy” banner once hung. That banner, in particular, has a “Sisters’ Creed,” which carefully lists the five qualities of a Morehouse Man, but with an adaptation geared toward women inspired by a document that Spelman College put out.

To name a few, three of the five highlighted qualities are: responsibility and awareness of the issues that marginalize Spelman sisters; comportment that demonstrates honesty and respect in all interactions with sisters; and lastly, responsibility for maintaining an inclusive and safe community for sisters.

With four banners in total, the aim is to readily answer questions when people come on campus. Institutions are federally regulated to address student concerns. Acting as Co-chair of the Campus Climate Task Force, Gary wanted to assure his words were not mere affectation.

“We have to be careful, and I think that’s okay,” he said. “I think it’s a good thing that we are as careful as possible and making sure that we are meeting the needs of the student body, as opposed to just jumping the gun.”

The other banners also address pressing issues that include: inclusivity, marginalization, and seeking academic, personal and professional help.

“I think it’s a sign that the college is moving forward,” Austin Wyche said, a junior Psychology major. “They’re transitioning from the ‘traditional’ norms of Morehouse.”

Although some suppose that one of the banners is a slap in the face to people that deal with the issues—homophobia, marginalization, ableism, etc.—on a daily basis, it’s a step forward. The banners function as the basis of what’s next for the college, and those very steps will be the ones that’ll address how the college deals with its student body and neighboring institutions.

_______________________

Jayson Overby Jr

Editor-in-Chief

jaysonoverby@gmail.com

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