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Graffiti wall display draws IFC sanction

ATHENS, Ohio (April 6, 2007) -- Ohio University members of the Theta Chi fraternity who painted a derogatory display and message on the campus graffiti wall late on Monday, April 2, face disciplinary action from the Interfraternity Council.

"The message displayed by representatives of Theta Chi on the campus graffiti wall was despicable. I am disappointed that students would express themselves in this way," Dean of Students Terry Hogan said.

Hogan's office began receiving calls about the display on Tuesday; later Tuesday, members of the fraternity had painted over the wall. Many onlookers found the image of a woman and the accompanying message offensive.

"Words and images like these harm and degrade all members of our community. They don't reflect our values, and they don't have any place in an institution that's devoted to learning and growth," Hogan said.

The IFC action was taken because the display violated the organization's rules and standards. The disciplinary action calls for the students to participate in community service and educational programming and donate to a charity.

Although the university takes a strong anti-hate stance, the six students responsible will not go through University Judiciaries. The graffiti wall operates as an unregulated public forum, which means it is a place the institution has afforded to anyone to make any message. Unless a display violates the law -- for example, if a message threatens physical harm to an individual -- it is constitutionally protected speech.

Despite its inability to sanction the students, the university led a collaboration to address the issue. The Office of Campus Life convened a meeting with chapter and IFC leadership on Tuesday to discuss the message. Chapter leadership acknowledged responsibility and said the group of six had created the image without the knowledge of the rest of the fraternity's members.

Fraternity leadership, which ensured the wall was repainted before Tuesday's meeting, expressed deep concerns and was strongly offended.

"We're going to make sure this won't happen again," said Nick Gatz, the fraternity's president. "Internally it's taken seriously."

"I respect that the leadership of the chapter has accepted responsibility for the members," Hogan said, "and that the leadership of the IFC acted quickly."

The IFC has required 50 percent of the chapter members participate in 50 hours of community service in next 60 days; a $200 dollar donation be made to the Make a Wish Foundation; and that 80 percent of the members of the chapter participate in an educational program related to sexual assault awareness and prevention, equality and diversity, and respect for others.

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Media Contact: Senior Director of Media Relations Sally Linder, (740) 597-1793 or linders@ohio.edu

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