Starting at O’Neill Library, and moving through the Gasson Quad, students will find an unusual addition to their walks through campus: signs printed with sexual assault and rape statistics. Given their density, the sign’s data—provided by the White House—are hard to miss, and are aimed at capturing students’ attention, thereby starting a more prolonged dialogue. The signs are associated with the Boston College chapter of React to Film, a national nonprofit working to first preview documentaries concerned with social justice at universities, and, then, to stage a demonstration or talk for the following one or two weeks on the issue.
Shock value is the posters’ advantage. Trips to-and-from classes, libraries, and dining halls are usually nothing more than time to appreciate BC’s aesthetics and to have passing conversations with friends—they are not times in which students expect to be confronted with disturbing statistics of the prevalence of sexual assault in college environments. The only other notable example of using public space to distribute this information is the sexual assault and rape statistics on the back of bathroom stall doors in residence halls, posted by the Women’s Resource Center.
There is programming at BC tailored to these issues, but when performed in closed off spaces, and at singular times during the week, the chance to engage a broad swath of the student body is unlikely. While these events are successful at providing the necessary platform for discourse, they do not effectively produce more activists—base level interest is at least already present in the attendants. The expansion out into an area with the greatest levels of foot traffic, and therefore the greatest exposure is a powerful move. To solve the issues that it’s presenting, more students need to be engaged in the discussion. With the posters in the quad, no longer can a student be insulated from the numbers. No longer is a student’s exposure limited to an event’s attendance.
Seeing the quad littered with posters is reminiscent of the Gasson Quad as a hub of student activity before its renovation. While now more suitable looking for promotional brochures, the present-day quad is sterile—absent of student involvement. While it might compromise the optimistic vibe of a walk across campus for students, professors, and touring groups alike, the posters’ addition are nothing but positive. They act as a conversational catalyst for a topic that can no longer be ignored. In the future, other groups should use public spaces in this way.
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor