Copies of a poster produced for a visual arts class, which satirized the reputations of female visitors to the off-campus residence 83 1/2 Harpswell Road—known as Crack House—were taken down last Thursday by College administrators because of the poster’s lack of attribution.

Jack Mensik ’14, whose image is featured on the poster though he was not part of the group that conceived of the image, explained that the posters were displayed for approximately 20 minutes before they were brought to the attention of administrators in academic and student affairs.

The project was created for an assignment in Visiting Artist in Residence Accra Shepp’s Photography and Color, in which students were instructed to produce a piece of art that would “intervene in public space,” according to Mensik. One group created this piece of satire, titled “Crack Pre-Check.”

Shepp and the students who produced the image would not speak to the Orient on the issue.
The poster encouraged young women over the age of 21 to submit “three recommendations from past sexual partners” and “full body shots and vital stats.” Approved applicants would then receive “unlimited access to Crack House” and “improved social standing.” The poster also included the tagline, “If you’re hot, you don’t deserve to wait.”

The image played on the Transportation Security Administration’s Pre-Check list, which offers a chance to apply for a background check that qualifies flyers for an expedited screening process at airports. 

“I don’t think it worked as satire,” said Dean of Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd. “And it hadn’t occurred to the students who produced it that it could be read as anything but satirical.”

“Class related or not, art or not, this kind of imagery is powerful,” said Foster. “In this case, no one was taking ownership of it, so people who were being affected by this didn’t have the ability to engage people.”

Mensik posed with a lacrosse stick and a Bowdoin Lacrosse jacket for the photograph that appears on the poster. Mensik explained that he did not fully understand the group’s aims for taking the picture and that he understands why some would find the resulting image offensive.

“I think it’s unfortunate when people get offended, but at the same time, it’s admirable when risk is taken,” he said.

Caroline Martinez ’16 was one of the few students who saw the project last Thursday afternoon. She saw one in the entrance of Chamberlain Hall, where she is a residential assistant and brought the project to the attention of Residential Life staff. 

“I thought that the intentions weren’t bad, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t offensive,” she said. “For me, this poster shows the high tolerance we have on campus for sexism that we don’t have for other issues that affect us.”

Martinez particularly objected to a phrase on the poster—“All applicants may be subject to physical inspection”—which she felt made light of consent in sexual relationships. 

“For me, it seemed to continue the sexist tone that we have on campus instead of questioning it,” she said.

She did not know that the image was part of an art class project, or the fact that posters on campus need some attribution, but said that she would have removed the poster regardless.

“It touched on an issue that’s very sensitive and I completely understand why people reacted the way they did,” said Mensik.

The poster did not feature either the artists’ names or the class for which the project was created. Both Judd and Foster suggested that the image would have been allowed to remain posted on campus had it included these things, in accordance with a school policy on posters. 

“[Identification] provides the context for the comments or the conversation,” said Judd. “The absence of any ownership potentially projected speech onto someone else.” 

“People need to be able to engage you in a dialogue,” said Foster. “Freedom of speech does not protect anonymity, in my mind.”