Thursday, February 26, 1998
Students test limits of taste? It's their job

The Cincinnati Enquirer

I'd love to be outraged about this. It would probably burn lots of calories. But I just think it's funny.

Miami University students who choose to escape the relentless Georgian Revival architecture of campus to live in one of the many little houses around the town of Oxford have a tradition of naming them. Sometimes it's even part of the real estate description in newspaper ads. And it's certainly part of the fun.

The Ivy League. Cheers. The Playhouse. Drop Inn. The Rat Trap. The Bored of Education. One has been called Attractions, commemorating a bar that serves beer for 25 cents on Wednesday nights.

Charming, really. And harmless. An inside joke, sometimes. The Library. As in, ''I'll be at the Library, Mom.'' Never mind that the library is a little frame house at the edge of campus.

But, as college students will, they have tested the boundaries of good taste. That is practically their job, as any parent knows. And they have offended the sensibilities of nearby adults. That, too, is in the job description.

Dangerous and profane

Last fall, some new signs were erected. Ooooh, I hope that didn't offend anybody. One on Beech Street reads ''Sex on the Beech.'' A house at the corner of Chestnut Street and Campus Avenue offers two opportunities to proclaim itself ''Butt-Ox,'' one four-foot banner facing each street.

An Oxford resident, Sue Ann Beer, this month asked her city council to regulate these signs. Some of them, she says, are too racy for the eyes of her 7-year-old son. Oh, stop. The world can be a dangerous and profane place, but Butt-Ox? Have you taken a look at television lately? That little box that sits right in your very house? Or the WEBN billboards?

Kim Gill told the Enquirer's Gregory Carsten that she refuses to remove her ''Sex on the Beech'' sign. ''If this city wants to pass a law in opposition to our First Amendment rights, then I'll take my sign down.''

Free speech? Give me liberty or give me Butt-Ox? I don't think so. It just doesn't have much of a ring.

Wanted: Grownups

This is, of course, a university. And I picture the sort of learning that might be going on where they will go to the wall to live in a house called Sex on the Beech. I see young people with dictionaries open, looking up intercourse. (Har.) And vagina. (Tee hee hee.)

Maybe somebody will gently remind the students that they may want to choose more important battles. Fighting with the neighbors can become a 24-hour job. Wouldn't you rather be using your energy to find the 25-cent beer? Or finding a cure for cancer?

And maybe somebody might want to remind the neighbors about how wonderful students can be when you need help. Really. These are probably the ones who will jump-start your car if you leave the lights on or shovel the walk if you break a hip. At least, I'd like to think so. They seem like good kids. The signs are neat and spelled correctly. That's something, isn't it?

If you squander all your outrage on Butt-Ox, maybe you won't have any left for, say, Saddam Hussein. Or the thugs who attacked a 19-year-old Miami sophomore with a baseball bat, apparently because he is black.

His skull was fractured in six places and the bone under his eye broke in two. Doctors had to rebuild his left cheekbone and eye socket. Now that is obscene. And outrageous.

Legislation to prohibit showing the word Butt-Ox in public? City Council regulations? Have the women in the neighborhood tried homemade chocolate chip cookies? When I was in college, we would have sold our souls for them.

If this doesn't work, maybe the townfolk should consider using the heavy artillery on these renegades, these wanton house-namers. Tell their mothers.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in the Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.