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“Battell Pranks” and the Women’s Union Responses

In September of 1983, two male students wearing ski masks forced their way into the dorm room of a female first-year student, sprayed her with shaving cream, and drew on her body in red marker. Several days later, the two men repeated this “Battell prank,” as it was called, on another female first-year student. The Women’s Union responded in the next issue of The Campus, arguing that these so-called “pranks” were instances of sexual violence that “served only to give pleasure to the perpetrators –pleasure at seeing their ability to dominate, to stun a woman so she doesn’t resist, and to violate her person with shaving cream and red pens” (see: Women’s Union, “Jokes and Violence Linked,” The Middlebury Campus, September 30, 1983, Volume 78, Issue 2, 10).

The outrage of the Women’s Union was met with backlash and accusations of oversensitivity. The students responsible for the incidents apologized and participated in a hearing that led to no official disciplinary action. Following the hearing, deans established a system of night monitors in first-year dorms on campus (see: Lee Higham, “Freshman Dorms Monitored To Insure Greater Security,” The Middlebury Campus, September 30, 1983, Volume 78 Issue 2, 1).

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