A sobering fashion trend
When Buena Vista University freshman Leah Marshall looks around campus and sees her peers wearing shirts promoting drinking and sex, she feels sad because she believes sometimes that is all people see when they think of college students. She says she is not a stereotype.
"I am here to get an education. I think that type of shirt sends a negative message about the university."
Just about every t-shirt with a BVU logo on it has a reference to alcohol, Marshall says. So she decided to do something about it. This Friday, Marshall and 39 other students will wear BVU t-shirts that promote academics over drinking.
"I am not necessarily against drinking," said freshman Abbey DeBoer, one of the students that will be sporting a t-shirt Friday. "I just don't think it is a responsible way to promote the school."
Freshman Ashley Heath has a different reason for wearing the shirt during the Scholar's Day protest.
"It shows the school is pro student," she said. "It shows we have a voice on campus and that we have the support of the school."
The protest actually started as an activism project in one of Marshall's classes. In addition to writing papers and giving oral presentations, she was required to give a practical example of activism. Others in her class were writing letters to senators on various issues.
Marshall remembered several letters to the editor she read in the school paper.
"At the time I read letters people had written about t-shirts on campus," Marshall said. "I agreed with them. Since the problem dealt with t-shirts I decided to do my protest the same way."
With the help of an on-campus club and many interested people who volunteered after marshall began publicizing the protest, she now has a box with 40 light blue t-shirts. The front of the shirts says 'No alcohol inside' while the back proclaims 'BVU: outthinking other Iowa Schools since 1891.' The message is an answer to a popular t-shirt on campus that says 'BVU: out drinking other Iowa schools since 1891.'
Such shirts have been common, with legends such as "Loud, Proud and Plowed" for BVU sports fans' "Beaver Den" shirts - at events like basketball games where many young children from the community are present.
The t-shirts are being given away free for the protest, but Marshall hopes to order more shirts, that she will try to market.
"I have gotten a really good response so far," Marshall said. "I am pleased and surprised how supportive people have been."
She said the protest even inspired one professor to hold a class discussion on the topic.
Marshall says she is worried in the future BVU could become known as a party campus. As a high school student she was driven to attend BVU because of the high academic standards and does not want people to only think of drinking when they think of the university.
As she took the design to a local silk screen shop, two women working behind the counter mentioned every shirt they had seen about BVU had a reference to alcohol on it.
"On campus is one thing, but when people in the community start thinking like that, there is a problem," Marshall said.