13 Men With 13 Pleas for Tolerance

The Colgate community is in need of a social change. Not a social change in terms of alcohol or social events, but one that addresses issues of tolerance and mutual respect. We take much pride in Colgate and have respect for the university, yet we openly disrespect members of our own community. This statement suggests that we need to rethink how we treat each other, and to understand the consequences of our actions. Offensive language and actions on campus are treated as jokes and we become desensitized to their meaning and the impact they might have on individuals at Colgate. Saying the words “gay” or “fag” is part of everyday conversation. Racial stereotypes become a source of comedy and people discount the severity of their comments. Generally, students on this campus mean no harm by such use of rhetoric; however, these comments still hurt individuals and groups on campus. This implicit assault of groups and people needs to stop as it undermines fellow classmates and faculty alike.

As leader of the Colgate 13, I have seen firsthand the effects of such ignorance. I admit that as a group and as individuals, we were guilty of disrespecting others, and using offensive language that is implicitly homophobic. Although we did not intend to cause harm, our actions still had that negative impact on one of our members. He removed himself from the group because he was hurt that we would use such language so openly and carelessly. Our use of rhetoric was intended to be in jest similar to that of most students on campus. However, its unintended result of hurting a member of our group and other members of Colgate, is reason to take a stance against actions of this nature.

Beginning in mid-October, the Colgate 13 has been working with the administration to improve the culture of our group. With the help of Dean Bisson, Dean Terhune, Dean Low, Robin Summers, and Doug Chiarello, the 13 has worked to promote respect in our group and tolerance of all people. These administrators have not imposed any rules or guidelines, but instead have challenged us to understand the problem and to find ways to address the issue. Internally, we have had many closed dialogues to discuss the severity of our previous behavior, and sought to improve on our actions. We have worked with our advisor Doug and kept him updated on the status of our progress. He will agree that we have worked hard to change precedent and become a group that prides itself on respect and tradition. Of our own volition, five members of the group attended Safe Zone Training to better understand issues of homophobia and the best ways to approach them.

We now more clearly understand that certain homophobic, racial and sexual comments are wrong because they are offensive to a person. Regardless of the intention, they serve to marginalize individuals anywhere, but especially here at Colgate. Nobody has been imposing this idea of tolerance on us; it has been an understanding reached by members of the 13. I am glad that as a group we have worked to understand these issues for the right reason of a personal desire to change, rather than a forced scenario. Members of the administration have embraced our efforts, and I thank them for their guidance and support. It is most unfortunate that we had to lose a member of our group in order to recognize and make this change, and on behalf of the Colgate 13, I apologize to him. However, this has been an opportunity for us as a group to make social reforms that have benefited our group and the Colgate community at large.

Next weekend is “Big Gay Weekend,” which promotes awareness of specific issues regarding sexuality and gender. To support the promotion of mutual respect for everyone in our community, I suggest students show some form of active participation during the events held next weekend. There are tons of events going on around campus that can appeal to every student here. The 13 will be performing at the Barge at 8 p.m. on Saturday right before a Drag Ball down at the Palace. But those are only two events which are part of a larger effort to promote tolerance at Colgate.

The continued marginalization of students is not acceptable in explicit and implicit forms, as it will continue to divide our campus on lines of diversity. Every member of our community contributes to the betterment of Colgate, and I hope that we recognize the efforts made by all individuals and organizations. As a whole, the Colgate population must strive to promote this change and a more cohesive university. Social reform a something to aspire to, and it requires participation by all those in the Colgate community.