Residents ask city to regulate off-campus house signs

Wednesday, February 25, 1998

OXFORD, Ohio (AP)—The longtime practice of Miami University students naming their off-campus houses is developing into a First Amendment battle.

For decades, students have posted in front of their homes signs bearing such names as “Bored of Education,” “The Playground” and “Boxed Inn.”

The monikers sometimes even appear in off-campus real-estate listings in Oxford.

But some residents say the names are getting too racy.

Specifically, some are angry with the 4-foot-wide signs that read “Butt-Ox” and “Sex on the Beech.”

Resident Sue Ann Beer, who has asked the Oxford City Council to regulate the signs, said some are too offensive for her 7-year-old son.

“If it’s not a sign that’s inherent to a business or direction, like my address or the name of my street or my name, then it shouldn’t be on the houses,” she told The Cincinnati Enquirer in a story published Tuesday.

The council wants students to remove objectionable signs voluntarily.

“We’re hoping people will take it upon themselves to exercise good judgment,” Mayor Bill Snavely said. “If they don’t, I would not be surprised to see legislation … either regulating the content or eliminating them altogether.”

At the request of the mayor, members of Miami’s Associated Student Government recently visited homes they thought had inappropriate names and asked residents to remove the signs.

So far, their efforts have failed.

Amy Keller, a resident of “Butt-Ox,” said the signs are purely for fun and not intended to be offensive. The students understand the community’s concern—but say the signs are staying put.

“I know there are families around here … and I don’t think our sign is offensive,” she said. “I’m sorry that some people do, but I think it’s just amusing.”

Kim Gill, whose “Sex on the Beech” sign is derived from the home’s Beech Street location, said her sign was not going anywhere.

“If this city wants to pass a law in opposition to our First Amendment rights, then I’ll take my sign down, and I will hate this city even more,” she said. “But I’m not about to please this city by conforming to its definitions of appropriate until I’m forced to.”

Bob Karrow, a seven-year Oxford resident, said he didn’t want to see legislation monitoring the signs, but students should not abuse their right to free speech.

“It really trivializes the First Amendment to stand behind it for a dumb house sign,” he said.