On Monday, November 7, members of Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority (Kappa) notified Campus Safety and the Hamilton Police of a possible bias-related incident at their sorority house (40 Broad Street), wherein a pride flag was stolen from a second-story room with eggshells left cracked on the windowsill. A month earlier, junior Molly Klein and senior Casey Lange hung a rainbow flag from the front of the sorority house signifying support for gay pride and for the sorority members who identify as part of the LGBTQ community.
Both Klein and Lange identify with the LGBTQ community, and advocated for the placement of the pride flag.
“Casey and I put the flag up a month ago to be proud,” Klein said. “We have the support of everyone in Kappa, and we felt really good about it because we’re very supported by Kappa. It was all good, people were taking pictures in front of it. It was great.”
“It was very much a statement,” Lange said. “We faced zero contention with it going up. It was suggested and, within the day, it was hung. We’re all super supportive here of everyone, so it’s pretty disturbing to have that kind of thing happen, especially when it connects to a larger community.”
The Kappa Kappa Gamma National organization does not have a statement explicitly on inclusivity of the LGBTQ community, so Lange felt that the Colgate Chapter needed to speak out in support of that community.
The pride flag was displayed from the front of the house for over a month before it was stolen. It is unknown when the actual incident occurred.
“We noticed what happened [on Monday] at around 2 p.m. but whatever might have happened was anytime over the weekend, because we don’t really know exactly when the flag was taken, or when the eggs suddenly showed up there,” junior Katie Jean Colman said.
Colman resides in the room from which the flag was stolen. In response to the incident, she drafted a Facebook post addressed to those who stole the flag.
“I will never be able to understand your actions,” Colman wrote. “You took the time and effort to steal our pride flag, while also finding it necessary to throw eggs at the window from where it was once hanging. I can not begin to fathom the incredible hatred that must fill your heart… As a member of the Colgate community, you have caused incredible hurt, anger and sadness. You have impacted those that I love, as well as the entire LGBTQ community.”
Colman explained her thought process behind drafting and publishing the Facebook post describing the incident, accompanied with photos of the damage.
“If I could put into words what people are feeling and what these people have caused, maybe we can get that power back that they took away. [The Facebook post] had a great response,” Colman said. “I expected some people to be receptive, but I didn’t expect that many people to be receptive.”
After discovering the theft of the pride flag and the vandalism to the bedroom window from which it hung, Klein and Lange called Colgate Campus Safety and the Hamilton Police. Campus Safety said they would increase patrols of the area surrounding the house. The Hamilton Police classified the incident as larceny.
Klein, Lange and Colman each expressed disappointment with the police officer’s assessment that the incident does not qualify as a hate crime.
“The way I see it, it absolutely was a hate crime,” Colman said. “It was filled with hate, and it was a crime.”
Klein also felt that the incident was a form of a hate crime.
“[The Hamilton Police officer] said that it wasn’t a hate crime, but I see it as that. Maybe it legally isn’t a hate crime, but I see it as that,” Klein said. “It was so blatant, so direct and very surprising. I was speechless because I didn’t think something like that would happen here.”
Assistant Dean and Director of LGBTQ Initiatives khristian kemp-delisser agreed with the Hamilton Police assessment that the incident did not qualify as a hate crime.
“Hate crime is a legal term and device,” kemp-delisser said. “There is a high standard for it, and this does not meet that criteria. You could go so far as saying it was a bias-related incident, which is probably more appropriate for the situation, which is just an incident that seems to be motivated by bias.”
Rather, kemp-delisser believed that the theft and vandalization was indicative of constant micro-aggressions aimed against members of the LGBTQ community.
“People underestimate the amount of times and the frequency of these deeds or words that remind people that they don’t belong,” kemp-delisser said. “They don’t realize that this is such an everyday low-boil kind of thing that happens at Colgate. When something more extreme than the everyday erasure of the LGBTQ happens, it’s kind of a rude awakening for folks who see this.”
kemp-delisser emphasized that similar microaggressions occur daily on campus.
“It’s important to remember that this should be considered among all the other things that happen, and, in that sense, it’s actually not extreme at all,” kemp-delisser said. “It’s not uncharacteristic of the climate on campus. This is not an isolated incident. It’s indicative of a certain climate, so we must ask, ‘What are we going to do about that pervasive climate and culture?’”
Regardless of whether or not this incident is classified as a hate crime, many members of Kappa expressed extreme disappointment in Colgate and a growing sense that they are not safe in campus-owned residences.
“No one should feel like their own safety in their own homes is at risk. I always felt like a campus like Colgate was somehow better than that. I don’t know, I guess I was being naïve,” Colman said.
Klein echoed Colman’s fear for safety.
“Sometimes you think the world is good and then things like this happen and you get remind[ed] that it’s cruel,” Klein said. “Personally, I’ve never been targeted or made to feel bad because of my sexuality ever before, so it was an eye-opening experience. It made me feel shocked and unsafe, and I’ve never felt unsafe here before.”
kemp-delisser encouraged members of the Colgate community to respond to incidents like this in a productive manner.
“If you feel angered by this, if you feel hurt, then channel that into productive ways of fixing the climate of everyday things that happen,” kemp-delisser said.
Klein and Lange immediately ordered a new pride flag that will again be displayed at the front of the sorority house.
“We want to keep showing that you cannot tear this community down,” Klein said.