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Ecce Quam Bogus? Why it’s Time to Remember What This Motto is All About

 

Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum: Behold how good and how pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity.

EQB: The three letters that essentially encompass everything it means to be a member of the Sewanee community, whether you’re a student, an alumni, or a faculty member. The motto reminds us we aren’t just a collection of students and faculty members; we are brothers and sisters. We dwell together, hand in hand, unified under a common understanding of community, faith, and academic and moral achievement. Thus, everything about Sewanee is good and pleasant.

Except when it’s not. Like any family, brothers and sisters don’t always dwell together in unity. In Sewanee, however, the rift between men and women seems to have expanded into an almost irreparable divide. The discourse surrounding gender relations at the University has increasingly shed light on an issue that has historically remained dark.

For example, the reorganization of frat side was evidently nothing short of the Apocalypse. The fact that moving a few pieces of furniture around sparked such outrage, criticism, and even mini-revolts proved just how deeply embedded the culture of male/female separation has become. Since when does a wooden table determine one’s gender identity or membership of a social group?

Probably around the same time the word “date night” was eliminated from the Sewanee vernacular. No one seems to know when, how, or why the idea of a romantic dinner between two human beings seemed to vanish from the collective consciousness of Sewanee, but everyone seems to agree that it’s “just the way things are.” Why are girls and guys only comfortable interacting within the perimeters of a dorm bed in the dark?

Unfortunately, the interactions that do happen in the darkness of a dorm room have more serious consequences than a relocation of dining hall seating or lack of date nights. An increase in sexual assault awareness on campus is evident in the administration’s recent overhaul of the sexual assault reporting policy. Still, despite an increase in reporting, the incidents of unreported assaults remain relatively stable.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had the following conversation: “I hooked up with this guy last night, but I honestly do not remember it. I was completely blackout,” or something along those lines. Interestingly, I have also heard it from guys, saying they were so blackout last night they don’t remember with whom they hooked up. There is much debate about where the “line is drawn” when it comes to sex and alcohol—if they guy was just as drunk as the girl, was it rape? If she was drunk and leading him on, but regrets it the next morning, was it rape?

Depending on whom you ask, the answer could be yes and no. But this article isn’t about the definition of rape, or the attribution of blame (that’s a subject for an entirely different article—or perhaps even a book.) It’s about the fact that both men and women can’t seem to come to a common understanding of consent. It’s about the fact that the ways we are encouraged to display our masculinity and femininity is by grinding, DFMOing, and going home with the drunkest guy/girl in the frat house. It’s about the fact that the line between what is rape and what isn’t rape is blurry. This line should not be blurry. I repeat: this line should not be blurry.

Sexual assault, or perhaps the normalization of sexual assault, is the extreme manifestation of the gendered tension permeating Sewanee. The tension has insidiously snuck into casual dialogue (I recently overheard a female student exclaiming, after coming out of a classroom, “That test totally raped me!”), classroom discussions (next time you’re in class, pay attention to how much more guys speak up than girls), and everyday behavior (that tension you feel when you walk past a row of frat guys sitting at the same table).

The EQB motto, beloved and cherished by anyone who has ever been a part of Sewanee, rightfully captures the almost magical spirit of community that distinguishes the Domain from any other place on Earth. However, simply wearing the phrase on a t-shirt or wearing a ring with the University seal on it is not the same as actually living up to the message of EQB. As a Sewanee community, it is time for us to come together and live up to the true standards of fellowship and respect for others—regardless of gender—that our founders once envisioned. Imagine how good and pleasant it will be when brothers and sisters actually dwell together in unity.   

Annie is a senior English major and Women's and Gender Studies minor from Macon, GA. 
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