Following complaints by residents of Quinby House that two fraternity-era basement murals were inappropriate embodiments of rape culture, both murals were removed over Winter Break. 

Led by Quinby House President Sophie de Bruijn ’18, nine residents sent an email to Director of Residential Life Meadow Davis, Assistant Director of Residential Life Mariana Centeno and Director of Title IX and Compliance Benje Douglas on December 9 detailing their concerns.

“The two murals that hang in our basement, relics of the house’s past as the Psi Upsilon fraternity house, embody rape culture, that is, a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. Displaying cartoon images of sexual violence perpetuates the normalized image of rape on college campuses,” they wrote. 

The cartoon murals include a beachside Quinby House atop an idyllic cliff, numerous drug references, as well as dozens of scantily clad and naked women with men leering at and chasing them. That latter feature, in particular, was the focus of the complaint. 

“The murals depict naked women running away from men who are chasing after them and licking their lips. The murals depict half naked women looking frightened and trying to cover their bodies while men stare at, chase, and/or grab onto them. The murals depict women as half human half animal hybrids having sex with men. There is an image of a naked woman carrying a sign that says ‘deflower me.’ One of the murals is titled ‘The Virgin Forests,’” read the email.

Following a mid-December closed-door facilitated discussion with Benje Douglas, the House came to the consensus that the murals should not be displayed in the basement. 

Unable to disclose specific details about the meeting, de Bruijn said that the nine signees of the email spearheaded the initiative, but the whole house agreed that it was for the best. 

“I think the fact that students have ownership and that they’ve already built a legacy is absolutely positive,” said Douglas. “It’s always important for house members to be thoughtful of the space that they want to create both for the membership in the house but also for the larger campus community.”

At a second meeting, on February 23, the house decided that the murals needed to be removed from the House. 

During these discussions, former house residents were contacted and asked about their opinions on and their experiences with the murals. Two of those residents said that no issues were raised regarding the murals during their time at Quinby. 

Members of the house reached out to past members when deciding how to approach the murals. Some former members said they would agree with the murals’ removal only if they were preserved somewhere else, preferably the chapter room because they saw them as part of Quinby’s history and wanted them saved in a private space.

Though the murals will not be returning to Quinby, de Bruijn stressed that house residents were adamant that the murals not be forgotten. In particular, they expressed hope that the murals could be used in an educational setting. 

“My goal is that we use them in a way that we don’t forget about them—we don’t forget they ever existed—but that we can use them in a way that’s not a) in a residential space in which people are being being hurt and affected by them and b) that’s controlled enough that people are thinking about it more in an academic setting than when they’re drunk at a party and just see it and think it’s funny,” said de Bruijn.

Additionally, de Bruijn has been in contact with professors in the gender and women’s studies department who she says have expressed interest in potentially using either the murals or pictures of them in classes.

She also noted that a fellow resident of Quinby House had supposedly met the original painter of the murals during Homecoming this past fall who said that, originally, the murals were hung privately in residents’ rooms.

In an email to the Orient, Davis noted that, to her knowledge, there had been no formal complaints to Residential Life regarding the murals prior to last December. Additionally, she added that both murals date to 1966. 

Currently, both murals are being held temporarily by facilities.