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Anti-street harassment display ordered torn down at UNH for being too offensive

Union Leader Correspondent

March 28. 2017 10:04PM
UNH President Mark Huddleston delivers his State of the University speech at the Memorial Union building. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

DURHAM — University of New Hampshire officials are trying to come up with a new public display to promote a campaign aimed at fighting street harassment after the original one was torn down amid concerns that some of the messages were too offensive.

Officials are working with representatives from the school’s Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) on the display for a wall inside the Memorial Union Building that will coincide with “Sexual Assault Awareness Month” in April and “International Anti-Street Harassment Week” from April 2 to April 8.

The display that was removed by the university on March 17 just two hours after it was put up was an idea that began with UNH freshman Jordyn Haime, a journalism major and SHARPP community educator.

Haime said that as a UNH student she’s witnessed and experienced street harassment countless times and wanted to start a campaign against it through SHARPP.

“I wanted to educate students on the topic because it is not widely discussed on campus and is often put off as a ‘trivial’ issue,” she said.

Haime and her working group distributed a survey through social media and at SHARPP events on campus asking students basic questions about their experiences with street harassment.

The survey also gave students an opportunity to write down some of the harassing comments people have made to them on the street. Some of the quotes were then included with the public display on the wall.

“A lot of them had swears and words that we knew would be too controversial to have on the wall, so we censored these or changed the words,” Haime said.

Still, some felt the messages were inappropriate.

Haime said the final decision to move the display was made by Ted Kirkpatrick, dean of students.

“We are working with the administration to have a display back up on the wall, but it would get rid of a significant number of quotes that we had originally and do not believe are vulgar or offensive in any way,” Haime said.

In a statement on behalf of Kirkpatrick and the university, UNH spokeswoman Erika Mantz said the display was taken down because it didn’t “adhere” to policies for posting on walls in the Memorial Union Building.

“The University of New Hampshire takes sexual violence very seriously and has long been a national leader in efforts to educate, prevent and respond to it through SHARPP and the Prevention Innovations Research Center. The large wall installation in the Memorial Union Building was removed shortly after it was installed Friday, March 17, because it did not adhere to established and published facility policy for material posted on the walls in the MUB where thousands of members of the broader community, including young children, pass by every day. We believe street harassment is an important topic and welcome discussion. We have been meeting and working with SHARPP and the students involved to ensure an appropriate version of the display is soon back on the wall,” the statement said.

SHARPP’s director, Amy Culp, said Haime and Connie DiSanto, SHARPP’s marketing communications specialist, picked some of the “milder” statements to use for the wall.

“I understand that some found them to be concerning; however, it’s important to note that these were far less vile than the other list of comments that were reported,” she said.

Culp said she was on vacation when the display went up, but received a call about the issue. She said that at one point there was a negotiated deal to remove a portion of the display but keep the statistics and resource panel in place. A short time later, staff discovered that the entire display was gone.

Culp said she was “honestly shocked.”

“Jordyn and the other students worked very hard on this project,” Culp said. “Jordyn and others should be commended for their passion, dedication, and commitment to furthering the discussion of anti-street harassment on the UNH campus. Street harassment is clearly an issue here at UNH, as it is in broader society, so we must respond to the issues as they occur, and educate our community so we reduce ... the occurrences,” Culp said.

Confidential SHARPP advocates are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to assist those who have been affected by sexual and relationship violence, and/or stalking. SHARPP’s 24-hour support line is (603) 862-7233 (SAFE).

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