During the Nebraska game this past Saturday at Spartan Stadium, an ad came on the big screens for the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign, which is a call to arms for everyone — not just men — to stop perpetuating a culture that generates sexual assault on campus.
The stadium watched quietly as the commercial played. Faces on the screen mumbled words that, let’s be honest, couldn’t be heard well over the stadium’s shoddy sound system, yet “it’s on us” was repeated again and again.
Near the end, the faces and voices unified to say, “It’s on us to stop sexual assault.” There was a pause, and President Obama appeared on the screen.
But before he opened his mouth, the student section booed — arguably louder than they booed the Nebraska band.
I was stunned. Not stunned that the stadium booed Obama, but that they booed the message Obama’s face was attached to.
Between this and students leaving at, or well before, halftime, our student section this year has been absolutely awful.
Mark Hollis and Mark Dantonio have both expressed their disappointment in the student section. But the issue is not only with the dwindling numbers. This was the cherry on top.
“Stop sexual assault.” That’s what the message said. Not “We’re giving aid to Syrian troops to fight against ISIS,” or “Let’s talk about the Affordable Care Act.”
No. The message the White House sent in that 30-second block was a universal one. It wasn’t partisan. I don’t care if you’re liberal, conservative, moderate, white, black, green, old, young, male, female, scrambled or sunny-side up. I don’t care if you like Obama or not, because everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but sexual assault needs to stop because it is wrong.
And yes, it is on us — all of us — to take steps toward ending it.
The White House is saying we need to change the culture that has made the discussion of sexual assault taboo, the culture that blames victims and excuses unacceptable behavior because “boys will be boys” or “she asked for it.”
The student section booed that incredibly important message just because they saw Obama’s face.
Now, I do believe that students should take issue with the president. The U.S. government needs to be challenged and questioned on many issues.
But as an MSU student and a citizen of this country, I’m disgusted. Not only that our student section can’t be bothered to figure out what the hell they’re actually booing, but that sexual assault is taken as such a joke that it’s considered cool or funny to boo at an ad campaign for ending it. It is nothing short of childish.
I understand that a football game was perhaps not the right time to air that ad. Sure, it would reach a wide audience, but that audience was in the middle of cheering on a team winning (at the time) by a landslide. I know that football games are supposed to be fun and have a healthy, competitive rivalry. I’ve joined my voice countless times with the thousands of others shouting the vulgar, offensive chants directed toward another team, because it’s all in good fun.
But ending sexual assault is never, ever a joke. It is something that should always be taken seriously, even at a football game.
In this case, silence would have been better than boos. But students, please speak out against sexual assault. We are better than our collective behavior at that game. We’re Spartans and we need to stand up for what’s right — not boo our president for taking initiative against an important issue.