Sheet sign culture at UD: Read between the sheets

By: Paola N. Ortiz – Junior, Marketing

The sheet sign culture in the student neighborhood is affecting the way parents and students see the University of Dayton and its community.

The sheet sign culture started about 25 years ago in the student neighborhood when students took white bed sheets and wrote on them to express their Flyer spirit in a creative way whenever the school achieved a significant accomplishment or when a UD team won. Sheet signs have changed considerably since then.

Students commonly feature inappropriate sexual messages on sheet signs, especially during Welcome Weekend, Family Weekend and March Madness. Some students do not consider these messages as inappropriate. They view them as a funny way to share Flyer pride.

Some examples of these messages are “Daddy issues save us lotion and tissues,” “We don’t have chairs but we do have faces,” “Reading our sheets by day and in our sheets at night” and “Move in day comes once a year… how often do you.”

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The school has asked students to take down the signs when inappropriate messages are displayed, like the ones mentioned above.

Dean of Students Christine Schramm, University of Dayton associate vice president for the Division of Student Development, said she and the university are working to change this culture. Schramm said she is not aware of anyone going through the conduct process for having inappropriate sheet signs in her 25 years at UD. What would get someone documented and sent through the process is not complying with a university official asking to take the sign down; that would be a violation of compliance in the code of conduct.

“I have always had students cooperate and immediately take a sheet down when asked by staff or another student,” Schramm said.

Some first-year women are afraid of walking alone in the student neighborhood after 10 p.m. because they may not feel safe in a culture in which potentially degrading sexual messages are approved.

“I do not necessarily feel unsafe but uncomfortable because these signs are a representation of the community, and it is distasteful,” sophomore pre-medicine major Martha Bervell said.

“I feel that this is inappropriate and does not follow the Marianist values of this school,” first-year undeclared arts major Yohaiza Vega said. “It is unfortunate that visitors see these [sheet signs]. I don’t like walking alone at night because I do not feel safe.”

“I do not necessarily feel offended nor fear for my life, but I do feel bad for other people who walk through our community and see inappropriate things and think this is how the Dayton community is,” sophomore mechanical engineering major Aaron Winfrey said.

“Sheet signs promote a sexual violence culture. I feel like I’m not offended of the signs, but it makes me aware of my surroundings when being alone,” sophomore undeclared engineering technology major Mariah Jackson said.

In an interview with Kristen Altenau-Keen, sexual violence prevention education coordinator, she said the only way of preventing this is by holding each other accountable, telling each other when something is not right. She explained that green dots need to outnumber the red dots present on this campus.

According to the Student Development website, “A green dot is any choice, behavior, word or attitude that promotes safety for everyone and communicates utter intolerance for power based personal violence in our University of Dayton community. A green dot is anything you do to make our community safer.”

UD’s parents have mixed reactions on this culture.

“Some [parents] have been offended and some have understood bad-taste humor, while others have seen more enjoyable sheets and not the offensive ones,” Schramm explained.

Carlos Stewart is the assistant director for Student Services in the Office of Multicultural Affairs. As a staff member and father, Stewart said, “Sometimes we think we are contributing to a place being a great community, when in fact they are doing the opposite. Students should be aware of how it [the sheet signs] makes other feel.”

To improve this culture, Student Development staff make sheet sign competitions, such as Commitment to Community, also referred to as C2C. Students canexpress their vision of community at the University of Dayton. Winning awards such as the Rudy Award, Student’s Choice and Spirit Award result in prizes like gift cards for students. Student Development intends for these incentives to inspire students to set the best example for the community.

“C2C competition is helping create better sheet signs,” Brigid Kovach, a fellow for Housing and Residence Life, said. “Because usually, sheet signs make some students uncomfortable, but they don’t do anything. There is a stereotype on what is inappropriate is acceptable, but there are more people who disagree with these and do not stand up.”

“Upperclassmen have the most powerful voice on campus,” Altenau-Keen said. “But they are not using it in the right way. Stand up.”

The school is working closely to handle this situation, especially the Student Development and the Sexual Prevention Education office. They provide training throughout the year for students to attend and understand how to be a better person on campus and set the best example possible. Programs such as Green Dot try to instill a sense of responsibility in students.

Everyone has their perspective on this subject: There are people who do not see it as anything negative, while at the same time, there are some students who are afraid of standing up and saying they feel uncomfortable.

Junior finance and accounting major Victoria Dib explained, “I think some of the sheet signs are very offensive. As students, we have developed a bad reputation for the university with previous events, and these sheet signs contribute to this bad reputation. As a woman on campus, I do not feel safe walking alone on campus after hours. I worry about my friends when they are alone, but I worry more about our community not getting involved in programs like Green Dot to improve our campus safety.”

For the full photo gallery featuring all of Flyer News’ sheet sign photos, visit here. If you would like a sheet sign from spring semester featured in the gallery, please email it to FlyerNewsEditor@gmail.com.