As Fall classes loom and Boston University gears up for in-person operations, students concerned about harmful ignorance surrounding campus safety were pushed into action, and they have some strong words to express that apprehension.
The “F— It Won’t Cut It” campaign launched over Instagram, Tik Tok and Twitter to urge BU students returning to campus to follow COVID-19 safety protocols and encourage their peers to do so as well. The initiative is driven by eight College of Communication students involved in AdLab and PRLab, who began posting online Aug. 9.
Hannah Schweitzer, a rising senior studying advertising and the president of AdLab, is the project manager and account executive at FIWCI. Schweitzer said the student-led organization is encouraging those returning to campus to act responsibly for both their own health and community health.
“What’s so exciting about this campaign is that it’s really in the students’ language, it’s students talking to students,” Schweitzer said. “Being on campus is a privilege, so it’s on us, the students, to follow the protocols and take care of each other, take care of the BU community and take care of Boston.”
Before the official launch, BU Trustees filed FIWCI for a trademark Aug. 6, garnering online attention for the school-sponsored profanity.
Students had pitched several ideas to BU when it asked them for a public safety campaign that would connect with the student body, and the University approved the FIWCI idea.
The name “F— It” came as a response to other young people’s disregard for nationwide health guidelines such as social distancing, said Christoper Young, advertising senior and copywriter on the campaign.
Young said the explicit title is meant to not only entice fellow students to interact with their bright marketing, but also to show the larger community that not all students are detached and irresponsible during the pandemic.
“We wanted to use bold language, bold colors to really get any student’s attention, because we have the potential here to actually encourage safe behaviors and really change not just our attitudes, but also our lifestyles,” Young said. “We wanted to show that students really do care.”
The campaign’s Instagram account, @fckitwontcutit, has gained more than 3,400 followers since its inception. The campaign includes information on travel safety, campus testing procedures and ways students can socialize and date with caution.
In response to the account’s popularity and growing presence among BU students, another social media campaign called “F— It Didn’t Cut It” launched on Instagram to disclose on-campus gatherings that their advocacy failed to prevent.
The account’s creator, a BU student who asked to remain anonymous, said that as a “non-University sponsored voice,” they hope to use their platform as a form of citizen journalism and to encourage members of the BU community to hold each other accountable and keep campus open.
“This is not our playground,” the student said on Aug. 23. “We are lucky to go to school here, and we can’t rampage all over the people of Fenway and Allston and Brighton just because we want to party. We can’t put lives at risk.”
The FIDCI account was deleted later that day due to backlash over posts advising students to call campus police, which some said was “threatening Black life on campus,” the creator wrote in an iMessage. They wrote they hope the creation of a task force separate from the police could mitigate situations more responsibly.
Meanwhile, some students have been vocal about their disapproval of the University-sponsored FIWCI program and its messaging, including COM senior Brandon Millington, who posted his criticism on his personal Instagram account.
By supporting the campaign, Millington said, BU administration is undercutting its own role in keeping students and faculty safe, instead unfairly putting that pressure on the students themselves.
“Students and faculty and staff did not have a say in the reopening plans, and to use the PR team and the campaign to kind of rally students into believing that now they have a responsibility and accountability is just not fair at all,” Millington said. “And it is deceptive, at the end of the day, for the PR team to promote this.”
Massachusetts has averaged around 50 new COVID-19 cases per million daily over the last month and a positive testing rate of just over 2 percent, according to The COVID Tracking Project. This data classifies the state as “lower-risk,” as per the state’s COVID-19 Travel Order criteria.
BU students will begin moving into on-campus housing Saturday and will be required to complete a COVID-19 test upon arrival.
In addition to Back2BU and campus-issued announcements concerning the pandemic, FIWCI offers students a voice and platform to protect themselves and their peers, Mia Trentadue, assistant director of community initiatives and online education at BU’s Wellness and Prevention Services, said.
Trentadue, who works on virtual programming for incoming students, said it is important to prioritize COVID-19 safety this Fall.
“It’s really a community effort to look out for one another, to look out for yourself [and] to keep folks safe,” Trentadue said. “The campaign that students have put together is eye-catching, it is bold, and it really sounds like it comes from a student voice.”
Kira Milgrim, a rising sophomore in the College of Engineering, followed the project on Instagram after a colleague recommended the account to her. While students’ adherence to health guidelines is somewhat unpredictable, she said she remains hopeful that the community will look out for each other with the help of FIWCI.
“It’s a great idea for raising awareness about all this stuff,” Milgrim said. “People need to realize other people in the community are affected by their actions, so I think this campaign’s pretty important, and it speaks the language of us, so hopefully people get on board.”
While he supports the movement’s efforts and the student engagement it promotes, Millington said he would prefer to see critical conversations involving the entire BU community that directly address people’s concerns.
“I want to see students and faculty having an open discussion, an open dialogue as to how their specific courses can benefit this semester,” Millington said. “Even though BU administration hasn’t given students and staff that voice in the planning aspects of reopening, I still think as a community effort, a conversation can still be made for all of us to think, ‘how can we stay safe the semester?’”
In the coming months, the project will be “all over campus this Fall,” Young said, with proposed signage outside of Warren Towers, promotions on the BU Shuttle, posters across Commonwealth Avenue and merchandise for students.
While the campaign’s messages and aesthetic are spirited and colorful, Schweitzer said she and her team are dedicated to spreading awareness and ensuring that students demonstrate real obedience to keep BU open and safe.
“This is us saying we’re in this together, we love being on campus, this is the place we feel at home, these are the people we love being around,” Schweitzer said. “But if we are going to get this awesome privilege, we need to really take care of each other.”