Consent the D at DePaul ends, university issues cease and desist

The final Consent the D T-shirt design. T-shirt production is currently halted, according to Vollrath. (Image courtesy of Randy Vollrath)
The final Consent the D T-shirt design. T-shirt production is currently halted, according to Vollrath. (Image courtesy of Randy Vollrath)

Consent the D, the student-led movement aimed at raising awareness about sexual violence and consent, ended abruptly when the group was issued a cease and desist from the university.

DePaul’s Office of General Counsel issued a cease and desist letter in response to the infringement on one of DePaul’s licensed logos, DePaul spokeswoman Carol Hughes said.

“I’ve spoken to counsel about potential legal issues, and he does not believe that the university has a case,” said Randy Vollrath, a senior and founder of Consent the D. “I spoke with the dean’s office about the cease and desist letter. They were very supportive of me and the fight against sexual violence and in favor of a culture of consent.”

He said Consent the D did not use DePaul’s logo or trademark and that their “D” design was original and “substantially different.” Vollrath announced the end of the movement in a video posted to the group’s Facebook page Nov. 4 and that T-shirt production halted as they “worked to address the issue.”

According to the group’s ThreadMeUp page, 74 T-shirts were sold at $15.60 each, totaling to about $1,154. Vollrath said 50 percent of the profits will be donated to Rape Victim Advocates. However, with production costs, Vollrath said they expect to send a check for about $307.84. The movement was scheduled to end Nov. 9, and so those who had ordered shirts were not expecting to receive them for a few more weeks, Vollrath said.

The movement stirred up conversation among students and others close to DePaul throughout the past weeks.

“We know there has been controversy, but we consider the movement a great success,” Vollrath said in the video statement. “From the beginning we were fighting to create awareness of sexual violence and advocate for consent. Considering the attention and support the movement has received, we are happy to see more awareness and advocacy for the cause.”

Adina Babaian, a sophomore and member of DePaul Feminist Front, said she knew that the movement would come to an end and figured there would probably be a trademark issue with DePaul. Feminist Front was one of the groups on campus that was not happy with the movement.

“We were upset that because this is an issue that groups on campus having been focusing on for so long,” Babaian said. “He had not reached out to the community and had not made any attempts to have discussions about the shirt. He clearly wasn’t educated on the issue and because he was male, it was automatically more praised because of his gender.”

However, Vollrath said many different people were involved with and supported the movement.

“Some journalists characterized the situation in such that DePaul was divided about the T-shirts on the basis of gender … and this couldn’t be further from the truth,” Vollrath said. “Countless women, men and survivors supported the movement.”

Despite criticism, Vollrath said there were many students that supported the movement.

“I had substantial support leading up to the movement and initially,” Vollrath said. “I think the opposition used a lot of strong language and while many supporters maintained their support, they felt attacked and criticized and were more hesitant to be as vocal about their support as they were initially.”

Also, Vollrath said he decided to use Consent the D, a project he came up with months ago, as the topic for his honors thesis.

“I had been working on the movement for a few weeks and I wanted to commit myself 100 percent to making the movement successful,” Vollrath said. “Meanwhile, a deadline was approaching to make a decision on what to write my honors thesis about. The honors thesis will be a retrospective analysis of the extent to which the movement was successful using social entrepreneurship literature.”

Although throughout the whole process Babaian wanted to hear recognition of the other side from Vollrath.

“His response didn’t acknowledge why people thought Consent the D was a negative movement,” Babaian said. “(He) had been approached by activists on campus telling him that the shirts had triggered victims and survivors of sexual violence. And although he seemed to initially respect that, he was seen the next day wearing the shirt, which shows a direct disregard for the people they were supporting.”

All the disagreement was not something that Vollrath initially expected with the movement.

“I was puzzled a bit a first that there was so much controversy, because I thought we were fighting for the same cause,” Vollrath said. “I think the opposition had an established platform by which to make their views heard loudly, and we weren’t expecting that.”

But with all the feedback and additional media coverage, Vollrath said the process taught him a lot.

“I would just say that it was very frustrating to see my words misconstrued by people who probably did understand the message and had an incentive to create a controversy,” he said. “It shouldn’t have blown up into what it did.”