Are you shocked? Can you believe that we printed that word? Last week, the phrase ?Phase phags? appeared in the main tunnel under the Eastman Quad ? implying ?faggot,? a homophobic slur carrying as many hateful connotations as the N-word.
The N-word is one that rarely comes up in our society anymore. Most know not to use it. The word ?faggot,? however, is not socially forbidden. Many people do not place it in the same category. Students need to realize that all slurs can do equal harm, whether they refer to blacks, homosexuals, women or others.
Regardless of whether such words are protected by freedom of speech, people must consider the ramifications of their use.
After the phrase appeared, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Friends Association took offense and repainted the tunnel to promote awareness. Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity had been the last to paint the tunnel ? and in the process of repainting, the letters ?k? and ?e? from the fraternity name were recycled to spell the word ?dyke.?
DKE members now say that they are angered because the reuse of their fraternity letters imply that the word was directed toward them. They view it as a slur, although many from the gay community identify with ?dyke? and do not see it as being negative.
Regardless of intent, the author of ?phase phags? and the GLBFA member who appropriated DKE?s letters should both have stopped to consider the potential impact of their words.
In the same vein, Campus Times cartoonists, though they have the right to do so, should think before publishing words like ?bitch,? ?ho? and ?slut? ? words that fueled a firestorm among members of the university community last spring.
The issues raised by the cartoon were eventually addressed in an open panel discussion where everyone was invited to share their views. This chance for free discussion benefitted all by allowing a variety of viewpoints to be heard and addressed.
The open forum is an important tool for discussion and creates an opportunity to increase understanding on this campus.
Ideally, both students and faculty should make efforts to promote the use of the forum to increase communication throughout UR.
While the situation could have escalated to something much worse, perhaps if DKE and GLBFA had approached each other when these incidents began, the issue would not have reached the point that it did. Anyone has the right to say these words, but whether they should, or really want to, is a question that needs to be discussed.
However, except for the appropriation of the DKE letters, GLBFA did respond in a positive way by discussing their anger with university officials and constructively expressing their opinion in the repainting of the tunnel. They succeeded in creating a tunnel where, instead of a slur, positives messages aimed at educating the UR community are the main focus.
Finally, while the First Amendment protects our right to use these words, students need to be aware that the university classifies such speech as harassment and disciplines those who exercise it.
Because UR students come from so many different backgrounds and grew up in so many different social contexts, the university should take more action to ensure that its students are aware of these words? consequences ? whether those consequences come from the university or from their peers.
UR takes pride in its multiculturalism but does little to educate new students about it. We need a specific freshman orientation program that highlights cultural sensitivity. We already have programs about safe sex and college life. A hour and a half of sensitivity training is much-needed. If the university means to discipline those who use slurs, it needs to take the responsibility of teaching everyone their significance ? helping to create a more accepting community.
We would never advocate limiting free speech. What we do advocate is the use of thoughtful speech and consideration.