Sign campaign rips frat house culture at the University of Minnesota

The signs have multiplied over time. The Co-op's Mitchell says many students have expressed "gratitude" for the display.

The signs have multiplied over time. The Co-op's Mitchell says many students have expressed "gratitude" for the display.

Neighborly niceties aren't en vogue this spring along University Avenue at the University of Minnesota.

Out front of the Students' Co-op, a three-story, 18-room coed commune that's sandwiched between the Alpha Delta Phi and Delta Tau Delta fraternities, stands a village of hand-painted signs. While some are run-of-the-mill anti-Trump screeds, most address the Frat Row neighbors.

"Frat boys, stop raping people," reads one.

"Dear frat boys," says another, "I'll be making signs til y'all stop assaulting people!!!"

The display began early in the spring semester. Co-op members attending various sexual violence awareness demonstrations around the Twin Cities would leave them in the yard when they returned. That gave residents an idea.

"It was like, 'Hey, we can use this as a platform we can choose to utilize,'" says Mallory Mitchell, the co-op's co-president. "There has to be, we believe, a culture shift in the fraternity system where the boys-will-be-boys behavior is no longer excused." 

The signs have multiplied over time. Most target sexual violence and frat houses. Mitchell says many students have expressed gratitude for the display.      

But not everyone is kosher with the campaign. It prompted the Interfraternity Council, the governing body of the university's 30 fraternities, to file a complaint with the Student Unions and Activities, which oversees groups on campus. That panel concluded the signs don't violate any university policy. 

Interfraternity Council President Simon Beck recently told the Minnesota Daily he'd received emails from frat members who were concerned the signs' focus was "overgeneralizing and accusatory in nature." 

Beck couldn't be reached for comment. According to Mitchell, the fraternities have asked the co-op to remove the display. 

That's not going to happen until the Greek houses meet some demands, she says. Mitchell was unwilling to disclose what those will be. But she says they will be the subject of discussion when co-op members meet with Greek representatives at a meeting planned for later this week.

"The dialogue that needs to take place is addressing the toxic masculinity that's pervasive within the fraternity system," Mitchell tells City Pages. "The fraternities provide a convenient environment for sexual violence.… 

"We've gotten the fraternities' attention. It's hard to say what tangible action looks like. It's hard to say what accountability looks like because I don't think we've ever had it for the fraternity system."

In the meantime, the signs are staying put.