Student peace group angered over removal of Iraq War casualty sign

The recent removal of a sign hung outside Erwin Hall listing Iraq War casualties has angered the student group that put it there, as they allege the administration's insistence on its removal is a violation of free speech.

The white and black sign, posted and maintained by Students for a Peaceable Solution in Iraq, listed the number of casualties, both American soldiers and Iraqi civilians, much like other signs and banners placed by SPSI in the past. None of those, group members said, were removed or requested to be taken down.

However, over Fall Break, a member, whom the group would not identify, spotted a maintenance worker attempting to remove the lock that secured the sign. The member approached the worker, and was told that the sign needed to be removed because the administration had ordered it. At that point, the member took the sign down.

Members of SPSI said that prior to seeing the worker try to take the sign, members had not been contacted by the administration or informed of any need to remove it.

A member who did not wish to be identified said that following the incident on Oct. 12, the group went into Irwin to speak to an administration member about the situation. According to the member, Dean Susan Bailey overheard them talking about the issue, took interest in the situation and offered to meet with them. She discussed the issue with them, and directed them to Dean of Students Leonard Sancilio.

When approached that day by members of SPSI, Dean of Students Leonard Sancilio said that the casualty sign violated college policy for sign and poster hanging, which reads: "The affixing of signs, banners, posters or other displays to the exterior of College buildings may cause damage to the buildings or jeopardize public safety and therefore is not permitted."

According to the member, Sancilio said the sign was not taken down because of its content but rather because other students had requested use of the space and were denied permission in accordance with the policy.

Sancilio declined to name any students or groups that requested use of the space.

In a letter to The Lamron dated Oct. 16, freshman Chris Boutilier said that, "the administration took the sign down not because its message was problematic, but because the administration hates and fears dissident speech." He does not believe that the content of the sign was offensive to the campus community, and said it stood as a "symbol of respect and remembrance."

"The fact that they waited until the first break of the year when most students would be off campus, and didn't bother to contact us before trying to remove the sign, demonstrates that they wanted this act to be kept quiet," Boutilier wrote in his letter. "I can only conclude that they planned to remove and then destroy the sign, hoping we would chalk it up to vandals when we discovered it was gone."

For now, members said they still want to get their message out there despite the situation and their status as an unrecognized campus organization.