A lewd banner hung by University of Wisconsin-La Crosse students has sparked controversy after complaints it promotes rape culture.
Pictures of male college students next to a banner saying "Free cream pies w/ valid freshman ID" were shared on social media earlier this week, before a Facebook post by Demi Dahl that was critical of the banner ended up being shared more than 1,900 times and sparked wide debate.
She described the banner as "an unfortunate example of promoting rape culture on the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse Campus."
"You may think this was a harmless joke but the reality is that the more we see posts like this online, the more rape culture is normalized in our society," she added.
When Dahl confronted the students who hung the banner on Instagram, one of them told her "it was a joke, calm down."
The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse told WEAU that the banner was displayed at an off-campus student apartment, and said it had also received complaints that several male students were taunting women as they walked by.
The banner was removed last weekend but university officials requested police patrols in the area to ensure student safety. They have reached out to the students involved and are also planning to hold an open forum later this year to discuss the issue.
Chancellor Joe Gow sent an email to students on the first day of classes Tuesday, describing the banner as "highly offensive and sexist" and saying it is "contrary to what our university stands for," according to the Pioneer Press.
"I want all of you to know that UWL strongly condemns this kind of behavior — it is ignorant, it represents our university very poorly, and even if it was meant as a joke, the negative impact on the UWL community is very real," he said.
A study reported by CNN last year found that 23 percent of female college students said they have experienced "some form of unwanted sexual contact," and 11 percent said the unwanted contact included intercourse and oral sex.
At the time, Drew Faust, president of Harvard, said in a statement: "The results warrant the attention and concern of everybody in our community. Sexual assault is intolerable, and we owe it to one another to confront it openly, purposefully and effectively. This is our problem."