Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

The Magazine Of Queen's University

Search form

Another side of the "No Means No" story

Another side of the "No Means No" story

Letter to the Editor
Re: " 'No' now really does mean 'no' "
Issue #1-2010

Reading this article I felt some very mixed emotions about this particular time in Queen's history. I am an alumna who believes in educating people as a way of preventing sexual harassment. I also believe in the principle that people are innocent until proven guilty and in the need for proactive progressive discipline methods. 

As the "No Means No" sign incident was dragged through the media in 1989, there were some key facts missing from the story. Similar “No means ....” slogans with derogatory sexual insinuations directed towards males were posted by some students living in the residences located across from Gordon House. Once the male residents of Gordon House became aware that the signs posted in windows of their residence were offensive, one of the third-floor residents wrote and circulated a formal apology letter. Whoever was in residence the day the letter was circulated, signed it on behalf of what they believed to be all of third floor Gordon House. ROFF took that apology letter and demanded that the University discipline those students who had signed it, while they also continued to feed the media only the information they felt supported their cause. 

As it turned out, several of the first-year students who signed the formal apology letter were not even on campus the day the offensive signs were put up. But those who signed the apology letter became the accused, and although a trial ensued and innocence was proven, those involved were strongly encouraged to withdraw from the University. At least one of these students chose to remain at Queen's, experienced unexplained failing grades and eventually left the school.

It should also be noted that members of ROFF left death threat letters addressed to the students who signed the apology letter. 

As a witness to the untold side of the "No Means No" story, I think the unscrupulous methods used at the time by ROFF to make a public statement were very unfortunate.

It disturbs me that the author recalls the events of this time with pride, as this is a sensitive spot in the history of Queen’s that could have been handled very differently, providing an opportunity for positive education and progressive discipline rather than making victims of innocent people.  

I hope this incident was a lesson for all higher-level educational institutions about for the need for proactive progressive discipline policies that support and protect the rights of all people.

Melissa Mitchell, Artsci’94
Halton, ON

[Queen's Alumni Review 2010-2 cover]