Posters throughout campus depicting three rubber ducks have stirred controversy among students and alumni, with comments lining up on the event’s advertisement on the Facebook page for Residence Life.
The poster that advertises One Tribe Place Hall Council’s “Guess Who’s Gay?” event shows two yellow ducks next to a third duck that dons some pink coloring with a feather boa, while the words “Duck, Duck, Gay?” stand above the images.
During the event, a panel of 12 to 14 students will answer questions from audience members while audience members determine whether they believe the panel members are straight, gay, pansexual or bisexual.
OTP Hall Director Tyler Edwards M.A. ’14 participated in a similar event while an undergraduate at Arizona State University, serving on the panel and even as a moderator. He explained that the event’s goal is to educate audience members about reliance on stereotypes.
“What we’ve found with the program is that people will try to use any resource available [to] them … so more often than not they resort to the stereotypical questions,” Edwards said. “The funny thing is not just stereotypes about the LGBT community, it’s also stereotypes about the straight community.”
Some alumni reacted to the advertisement, citing that the poster left them with concerns about the program’s intent.
“The first thing I saw was the picture, which was the ‘Duck, duck, gay?’ with the pink duck, and I was completely shocked and when I read the tagline under it, I was appalled,” Morgan Jenkins ’12, currently studying law at the University of Pittsburg, said. “At first glance it seemed like a very inappropriate program. … It seemed more like it was trying to point out stereotypes … and that’s not the William and Mary I went to.”
Director of Residence Life Deb Boykin noted that Residence Life does not regulate Hall Council programs, unless in dire circumstances.
“We would not censor a hall program unless it was against the law or put someone’s life in danger,” Boykin said.
Assistant Director of the Center for Student Diversity Margaret Cook emphasized that students should note the intent of the program before reacting to the event and poster.
“I think one important thing for people to look at is the intent of the program, and I think the intent of the program is to be educational,” Cook said. “We’re not really concerned that the program, on the face of it, is determined to be discriminatory.”
Edwards said the OTP Hall Council has received questions about the poster, a flyer that Edwards has used for previous events at various universities without receiving much negative reaction from students.
The posters lack a description of the program in order to attract an audience that might not normally attend the event, Edwards said.
“If we were to make a flyer that were to say ‘This is going to turn out to be a conversation on stereotypes,’ the audience we’re trying to reach is not going to show,” Edwards said.
Cook noted that the marketing strategy of the event might have sparked concerns among students.
“[OTP Hall Council is] making a play on stereotypes and identity, and anytime you do that it’s a little risky because people are going to have different perspectives on that,” Cook said. “I think there’s an opportunity here for it to be a constructive conversation if people are willing to share how the marketing or program impacted them … to help people understand other people’s point[s] of view.”
OTP Hall Council responded to criticism that there was no link to find out more information about the event on the poster, so members added the website to posters.
“We’re definitely being responsive to what we’re hearing,” Edwards said.
Jenkins said she hopes the event will not encourage stereotypes.
“I will say that it would be my hope that their goal for this event would be to break down stereotypes … not to amplify those stereotypes or to make anyone feel uncomfortable,” Jenkins said.
The event will be held in Commonwealth Auditorium in the Sadler Center today from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Managing Editor Meredith Ramey contributed to this report.