Bobblehead Susanne raises questions, demands attention

by Jasmynne Sloan

If you’ve walked across campus this week, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

It started last Wednesday morning when a giant poster of a boy on a scooter was hung between two trees outside McNeill Hall. “Save Susanne” was lettered across the top of the poster in red paint. Later, whether someone tore it down or the wind blew it away, the poster wound up in the entryway on the building’s west end where perhaps even more people saw it.

Thursday brought dozens of “Save Susanne” posters taped, pinned or stapled to walls, doors, bulletin boards and windows throughout McNeill. The PRSSA bulletin board outside the basement classroom has an eye-catching 14 posters stapled over it.

The Simpsonian ran a story about Susanne Gubanc’s situation the same day – essentially the assistant professor of communication studies has been given a year left to teach. Then she’ll be expected to leave.

I’m not going to pretend I understand the situation. I really don’t know all the details and no matter how much I’d like to figure out what happened, no one will – or no one can – give me the full, unbiased story. It would be foolish of me to argue for or against a contract renewal for Susanne without knowing and considering each angle of the issue.

But I love the posters.

On Monday they reappeared staked next to the most-traveled sidewalks in the center of campus. Another large poster appeared in a tree near McNeill – but this one stayed up for a while. Tuesday brought a few more large posters, “Save Susanne” on the Storm Street Grill, and even better, T-shirts.

Although the shirts ended some of the discussion about who’s behind the campaign, not everyone saw them. The success of “Save Susanne” largely depends on what we don’t know.

Specifically, no one has seen the signs being hung. They appear at night – or early in the morning. Take the McNeill posters for example. When I left McNeill at 10 p.m. last Wednesday, there were no posters. When I arrived Thursday morning at 8 a.m., the place was plastered. It’s hard to know how many people are involved in the effort, let alone exactly who they are, when they sneak around waging their guerrilla campaign in the dark.

Then again, that element of surprise is what has people talking.

All we really know is that several people here like Susanne enough to take a few risks. Susanne herself doesn’t know who made the posters. Some people have said she’s somehow involved with the campaign, but that’s unlikely. Susanne joked that on Wednesday last week she felt like a whale that needed saving – apparently her students think she belongs on the endangered-species list. On Thursday she suggested the cut-out image of her face looked like a bobblehead doll.

It takes a certain amount of guts to stand up for what you believe in. If you’ve been in Susanne’s office or had a short conversation with her, you know she’s willing to state her opinions. But the people behind the “Save Susanne” campaign are also taking a stand.

I assume they’re experiencing some of the same things I am – mainly confusion – although I hope they know more than I do about the situation. Or they may just be smart. There’s a good chance I’m playing right along with the poster-creators just by writing a column on them.

It’s a brilliant campaign, really.