Administration and student groups are working together in response to recent acts of intolerance on the UR campus.

The Dean of Students Office released a letter that reported recent incidents of intolerance and promoted “respect for all persons” and the Pride Network painted a banner to hang in Wilson Commons.

These actions were taken after homophobic graffiti was found last week on the walls of Rush Rhees Library, Meliora Hall, the first floor of Anderson Residence Hall, near the doors of the Goergen Athletic Center and near Hoyt Auditorium. Posters advertising last week’s blood drive were also vandalized with homophobic slurs.

“The graffiti made people feel unsafe about being on campus, but it also made us want to work harder,” junior, Safe Zone Director and member of the Pride Network Beth Fox said.

Discrimination Increasing

Some students said they feel that negative acts against the gay community are increasing. Fox explained that the term “gay community” includes people who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer.

“As a whole, I believe that bigotry and noticeable acts of hatred have increased on campus in my time at UR,” said junior and co-director of the Pride Network Dan Lioy. “It is a mark of ignorance, prejudice and intolerance.”

Students are encouraged by the administration’s response to the latest incidents. Interim Dean of Students Jody Asbury released a letter on Feb. 13 outlining acts of intolerance that “victimized members of the community because of their gender, race, ethnic background or sexual orientation.”

Asbury’s letter encouraged the campus to “actively oppose acts of intolerance” and to report any harassment or discrimination.

Response

According to Asbury, letters will be a new means of communicating with the university community. “This letter makes issues more visible,” she said. “These things do happen here. They are not figments of someone’s imagination. We want to let students know that the university is addressing them.”

“We are really happy with how quickly Jody Asbury responded to this,” Fox said. “We are still in the process of trying to work with the administration to respond to this in a way that will positively effect the whole campus community.”

Lioy agrees. “It is important to us that the administration realize how grateful we are,” he said. “They are one of our most important allies.”

Though the university’s actual policy on harassment and discrimination includes specific language regarding sexual orientation, the UR Here Web site contains an abridgement of the policy. According to University Intercessor Kathy Sweetland, the webmaster has been asked to update the language on the web site.

The Pride Network made a banner for the gay community and its allies to sign in Wilson Commons. “The banner is a way for us to counteract the graffiti and other acts of intolerance,” Lioy said.

Fox is pleased with the support the Pride Network has received in reaction to this intolerance. “We do have a lot of allies on this campus,” she said.

Cardboard signs with names of Pride Network members and allies were made to cover the graffiti.

The Pride Network is also working with other area groups and hopes to hold a candlelight vigil on the steps of Wilson Commons.

According to Lioy, there are also plans to have a day where Network members and allies will wear special white T-shirts to show their unity. “We want to reach out to those students who are not comfortable identifying themselves with the gay community and who may feel isolated,” he said.

Students of the Pride Network feel that these incidents have only united the gay community. “Basically, the graffiti made the gay community on campus more coherent,” Fox said. “It sort of created more solidarity in the Pride Network.”

Both the administration and the Pride Network look forward to a cooperative effort that will help to improve attitudes on campus. “We will continue to work on common efforts between students and administration in responding to these incidents,” Lioy said.

Taylor can be reached at ktaylor@campustimes.org.



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