As the elevator doors closed behind me, my jaw dropped.
There was a new board on the second floor of Kinsolving Dormitory, where I lived. The board displayed information about what to do in the aftermath of sexual assault and harassment — good information. What made my jaw drop was the featured headline: “Hulk Smashed, Now What?”
Colby Frazier, a journalism freshman who lives on the second floor of Kinsolving, said that while the information on the board seems helpful, it was hard to get past the glaring insensitivity of the headline.
“There’s no easy way to bring up rape culture,” Frazier said. “ I haven’t read everything on the board, it seems like the information is useful, but those words that stand out, ‘Hulk Smashed,’ hurt my heart.”
Justin Samuel, the assistant director of Residence Life and graduate student, said the current review process for residence hall boards ensures the information presented is educational and makes residents knowledgeable of available resources. Residence hall supervisors and resident advisors use these vague guidelines for each board, but how resident advisors present that material is otherwise left largely unsupervised.
When residence hall boards are reviewed by University Housing and Dining employees, the boards should be evaluated not only for the content, but also for how that information is displayed. After I saw the board two weeks ago, I complained about it. As a woman who has been sexually harassed, it made me uncomfortable. I felt that it was insensitive.
If the information on a board can be viewed as insensitive by even one building resident, the board should be amended.
Many resident advisors decorate their boards in accordance with the floor’s theme. The second floor happens to have a superhero theme. While themes can be fun for RAs and residents, when they’re used to talk about serious, potentially triggering topics, they can trivialize important issues which is harmful to student life and morale.
Samuel said if a resident is concerned about insensitivity, they can approach the resident advisor or a building supervisor who will take the action they deem appropriate. However, I learned that this method does not always fix the problem.
Journalism freshman Kara Fields said that after my complaint, several other residents were asked about their opinion of the board, in lieu of an official evaluation. Fields said the same RA who created the board asked residents if the board was offensive and the residents largely agreed it was not.
Knocking on doors and asking people what they think of something you created is not a good way to find out someone’s honest opinion. It’s a good way to get the opinion you want to hear. Besides, residence halls should respect if even one resident feels uncomfortable in the place that is meant to be their home.
Any complaint by a resident about the insensitivity of a board should be taken seriously, and the appropriate changes should be made.
“If you have a history of sexual assault or harassment, the display can be triggering,” Fields said. “If you don’t, you get the privilege of being able to just pass by this board. What it says might not really affect you or draw your attention.”
The review process, and the processing of complaints, must be changed. Boards should be evaluated not only for content but for presentation, and any complaint about either should be taken seriously and result in changes.
Zaksek is a Plan II and women’s and gender studies freshman from Allen.