Early Thursday morning, a ten foot long word “FAG” was written in the snow on the Residential Quad in front of Crosby Hall. This was only one in a series of acts of intolerance.
UR security failed to eliminate the word, but it was later photographed and then destroyed by Campus Times staff.
This incident followed an incident that occurred on Feb. 16 in Morey 402, where the words “Die fucking nigger” were found written on chalkboards, along with a swastika and the letters KKK.
All the desks were turned upside down and a beer can was suspended from a pull cord on the projection screen.
Director of UR Security Walter Mauldin said the incident took place sometime between 5 p.m. Feb 15 and noon Feb. 16.
“The classroom is a place of ideas, where they can be debated and challenged,” he said. “This was a cowardly way to display an idea, and was meant to offend and outrage.”
Senior Malik Evans feels that the incident in Morey 402 affects students regardless of the slurs. “Even if you don’t give a damn about the KKK or anything, then, you care about people destroying and vandalizing the classroom,” he said.
This incident, along with several others that have occurred recently, were outlined in an e-mail sent by Interim Dean of Students Jody Asbury on Feb. 13.
Late in the semester, a fight broke out in Lovejoy Hall when students inside shouted racial remarks at a female undergraduate and her friends.
Three of the incidents targeted sexual orientation. In October, the Pride Network found its posters advertising one of their programs vandalized.
At the end of the fall semester, a student in Gilbert Hall reported hearing posters torn from his door, and finding homophobic graffiti on his message board. On the weekend of Feb. 8, homophobic graffiti was found at numerous locations on the River Campus.
Most recently, a banner signed by members of the community stating “we are all gay allies” was stolen from Wilson Commons, less than three days after it was hung.
Co-Director of the Pride Network and junior Dan Lioy is upset by the theft of the banner. “It’s frustrating because our main lines of communication are continuously cut down.”
On Feb. 27, the Pride Network held a candlelight vigil at 8 p.m. on the steps of Wilson Commons. “We did this to show solidarity with the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, queer, and their allies on campus,” Lioy said.
Despite the continual onslaught of snow and the cold temperatures, many people attended. The vigil attracted over a hundred people, including UR students, faculty, staff, and members from local colleges.
Speaking on why he came to the vigil, freshman Matt Steiniger said, “I can here to promote my anti-intolerance philosophy.”
Among the speakers was junior Zach Sweet. “We are gathered here as people of diversity,” he said. “We are here to condemn discrimination and to show our pride.”
“I am so happy and so proud to be here,” Lioy said.
Lioy also encouraged students to wear white t-shirts and blue jeans on March 19, which will be decorated with messages of solidarity.
Administration response to intolerance
President of the College Thomas Jackson and Provost Charles Phelps recently sent a letter regarding recent incidents of intolerance, including recent acts directed toward sexual orientation. “Several recent incidents of hateful graffiti and vandalism , directed at specific groups of individuals, are appalling and antithetical to the values of an academic institution,” the letter reads. “These incidents should be condemned broadly by members of our community.”
The letter also says that, although there is free speech, the University is exercising its free speech rights in condemning these acts that “under no possible pretense add to [the] intellectual pursuit.”
“It is important that all members of our campus community join us in making it unmistakably clear that this destructive venom has no place in our academic institution,” the letter adds.
Dean of the Faculty Thomas LeBlanc sent a letter to the community on Feb. 27, which read, “As a faculty, we condemn recent events on campus that exhibit bigotry, insensitivity to life, and hostility toward people on the basis of their ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.”
Director of Minority Student Affairs Norman Burnett first heard about the incident in Morey 402 from a letter sent out by Interim Dean of Students Jody Asbury on Feb. 18. “My initial reaction was one of disgust, outrage and deep sadness that such intimidating and harassing behavior had been so boldly displayed in a classroom setting,” he said. “I think this latest incident as well as the others are indeed serious and require attention from all segments of our college community.”
Burnett convened a meeting of the College Diversity Roundtable to discuss the incident and seek advice on how to respond. “I expect that the College Diversity Roundtable, with input from an ever growing coalition of concerned students, faculty and staff, will come out shortly with a set of recommendations and suggestions for improving our campus climate,” he said.
Senator and sophomore Ruth Varkovitzky also first learned of the Morey 402 incident from Asbury’s letter. “My personal feeling was that it was too vague to incite any significant response from the student body,” Varkovitzky said.
After learning more details at the diversity roundtable meeting, Varkovitzky decided to post fliers around campus that included a picture of the classroom and the remarks on the chalkboard. “There are two main purposes to the flyer,” she said, “to inform students about the severity of what happens on their campus, and to hopefully engage some students into constructive action.”
After discussing the idea with Senate, she included the senate’s e-mail address on the flier, so that people would be able to help “eradicate these sorts of unacceptable acts of racial intolerance on our campus.” “My point was to educate students as to what is happening in their home, and show them that senate is a medium through which they can express their outrage and channel their energy towards a meaningful response,” Varkovitzky said. “I am hoping to gather the students that will express their interest, run a meeting, and see what they would like to do.”
Varkovitzky plans on holding a meeting on March 3 in the Stackle room at 7 p.m. for all those interested in helping eliminate intolerance.
Between Feb. 24 and the night of Feb. 25, approximately one thousand were circulated in residence halls, academic buildings and Wilson Commons. Regarding the effectiveness of the letter, she said, “I’ve gotten approximately twenty people who want to help.”
Discussion of action
On Feb. 24, Asbury held a meeting with members of the student body, in attempt to find ways of dealing with the recent acts of intolerance. Regarding the reason for holding the meeting, Asbury said, “We don’t know how to go at this. We wanted to hear from students on this.”
Asbury feels that the meeting was successful. “I think they nailed a lot of good action items,” Asbury said. “They said it like it was, and people connected across different groups.”
Junior and co-President of the Pride Network Dan Lioy was also in attendance at the meeting. “I think it was successful in bringing groups together,” Lioy agrees.
Evans also participated in the meeting. “The meeting was good,” he said. “It was a diverse group of students. It showed that [the incidents] didn’t affect one group of students.”
At the meeting the idea of instituting a zero tolerance policy regarding racial and sexual acts was discussed. President of the SA John LaBoda feels that a zero policy would send a message to the community. “I mentioned that our judicial code for hate crimes should be stepped up so that the school sends a strong message that hate will not be tolerated,” he said. “Also, increasing the judicial
code’s severity will act as a powerful deterrent.”
Lioy feels that a backlash could result from responses like the candlelight vigil. “The more solidarity you show will outweigh any potential backlash,” he said.
Security is aware that there is a possibility of backlash following the responses to this incident. “Although we have no evidence of [backlash], we remain alert to the idea,” Mauldin said.
“We are in this together,” Mauldin said. “We stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the university in this.”
Senior Kelly LaPlante said, “I think that these events are terrible. It’s ridiculous that these things are happening.”
Junior Magdalena Bogun agrees with LaPlante. “I was surprised,” she said. “Not many situations like this have happened before.”
Sophomore Ariel Millman also felt that these acts were wrong. “These acts were very inappropriate and shouldn’t be done in the first place,” he said. “This was very immature.”
LaPlante attended the vigil against homophobia. “It’s positive to see that so many people agreed with me that recent incidents won’t be tolerated.”
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