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Sheet Signs of the Times

By Amy Rohmiller

Sheet signs are a unique part of UD’s culture. The sheets of solidarity the UD community has been sharing around the country in response to the coronavirus pandemic show that this tradition can exist well beyond the borders of campus and bring Flyers together even during this time of social distancing. 

University yearbooks (available on eCommons) provide a history of this communication medium, which has been used to express messages ranging from solidarity with larger world events to love of UD to advertising the next party or retreat.

First documentation in Archives: 1962

Though University Archives and Special Collections doesn't have a record of sheet signs' first use on campus, the medium made its UD yearbook debut in 1962. Students hung a “Good-by Dayton” banner outside their windows at the Gibbons Hotel. The caption reads, “... or do you remember when the Gibbons Hotel reigned supreme.” (In 1959, the University didn’t have enough men’s housing on campus, so the Gibbons Hotel at Third and Ludlow streets downtown housed 300 students.*)

Peace, justice, 'e-college-e'

By the late 1960s and early ’70s, sheet signs on campus and in the student neighborhood reflected anti-Vietnam War messages and the peace and justice movements. During the 1969-70 school year, students hung a giant fabric peace sign off Miriam Hall. Another peace banner was featured in the 1973 yearbook as part of the information about the University’s Peace Studies Institute. The 1973 yearbook also featured a sheet sign at an “e-college-e” event to draw attention to environmental issues and raise funds for an organization called “the Family Tree” (Page 117).

Elections, athletics, welcomes, thanks

Not all sheet signs tackled such serious subjects. Yearbooks from the 1970s and ’80s show sheet signs advertising parties and homecoming queen candidates. Signs celebrated the football team’s championship in 1981. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, sheet signs blossomed in the yearbooks. Neighborhood residents celebrated parents’ weekend (“Our Parents Are Better Than Your Parents,” announced a sign in 1996) and fondly looked back on their college experiences (“Thanks Mom & Dad, this place is better than Disney World,” proclaimed a sign in 2015).

Unity, joy, solidarity

After the 9/11 attacks, the 2002 yearbook shows that students joined in with the rest of the country and expressed their patriotism through sheet signs.

And in March, When ESPN’s College GameDay came to campus, students celebrated the event and the Flyers' record-breaking basketball season through sheet signs.

Share your story and your sheet sign

The sheets of solidarity campaign continues with UD students and alumni around the country. If you’ve made a sheet of solidarity, please consider donating a photograph and/or sharing your story with University Archives as part of an effort to document the UD community’s experiences with COVID-19.

— Amy Rohmiller is an associate University archivist in the University Archives and Special Collections.

* Source: University of Dayton Magazine, Autumn 2009.

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