Positive move-in banners welcome freshman following years of controversy

Blake O'Brien

Earlier this summer, Colorado State University sent a letter to landlords and leasing companies detailing banners presented in front of houses during move-in week, a happening that has occurred at CSU for the last few years.

Examples include a banner that read “FRESHMAN DAUGHTER DAYCARE” scrawled on a bed sheet and pinned to the side of a Laurel Street duplex last year on freshman move-in day. 

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It’s been an unwelcoming part of the welcome to Fort Collins for new students and their families, Dean of Students Jody Donovan wrote in a letter sent out prior to last move-in day. Despite a few drinking and anti-CU signs, this year the University saw a positive change.

“We’re very pleased with the positive, welcoming signs,” Donovan said. “The whole campus has just been really great about welcoming our new students and families to campus. Each year seems to be getting better and better.”

Karlton North, a sophomore computer science major who lives in a Theta Chi annex on Laurel Street, said he and his roommates chose to go the opposite direction of previous tenants.

By 10 a.m. Aug.16, the first day of freshmen move in, a whiteboard with “REMEMBER TO CALL YOUR MOM” written on it was suspended from their front porch. Less than an hour later, it was accompanied by a sign that read “SKIP HAPPY HOUR TO STUDY.

“Let’s do something nice and welcome all the families,” North said about their decision to display the messages. “Just something thoughtful.”

We’re very pleased with the positive, welcoming signs. The whole campus has just been really great about welcoming our new students and families to campus. Each year seems to be getting better and better.” Dean of Students Jody Donovan

House across from CSU campus
Welcome signs hang outside of a house on Laurel Street during freshman move in. (Blake O’Brien | The Collegian)

It wasn’t an unprovoked decision: The Women and Gender Advocacy Center has pushed back against obscene banners on move-in day for the last three years.

Members of the WGAC’s Men in the Movement, a group comprised of male-identified students who engage with issues of gender, violence and masculinity, walked the streets and tried to start conversations with residents about not hanging banners.

“Reacting to signs that come up is good and all, but the signs are up, so that can cause potential harm,” said Carl Olsen, the men’s programming and violence prevention coordinator at the WGAC. “We thought the best way to not have signs come up at all is to engage with and talk to folks who have historically (put signs up).”

The WGAC saw real progress when Men in the Movement’s efforts were combined with the institutional support of the University, Olsen said. 

Donovan talked about the banners with Ram Welcome leaders, fraternity and sorority life and on CSU’s Instagram page. The “Deans Team” – Dean Jody Donovan, Associate Dean of Students Craig Chesson and Assistant Dean of Students John Henderson  – joined five students from Men in the Movement to walk Shields and Laurel streets together.

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Though the result this year were positive, similar tactics previously warranted criticism from some groups on campus, which claimed that CSU’s opposition to the banners infringed upon students’ First Amendment rights.

The University and the WGAC disagree.

“Sometimes there’s a misunderstanding about free speech. If I ask someone to please not hang an offensive banner, I am not infringing upon someone else’s free speech,” said Monica Rivera, the director of the WGAC. “No one ever demanded that anything be taken down … there were simply conversations hoping to provide information about why the signs are harmful.”

Collegian news reporter Blake O’Brien can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @BtweetsOB