Hate Speech Incident Rattles Colgate

Nate Lynch

On Thursday morning October 18, students, faculty and staff received an email from Vice President and Dean of the College Suzy Nelson and Provost and Dean of the Faculty Douglas Hicks reporting that several of the “Coming- Out” doors posted around campus by the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Initiatives had been vandalized with insulting and threatening comments. The messages included six names intended to “out” students with-out their knowledge as well as the messages “Die,” “All gays die” and “Dirty Ghetto kids.” The remarks were written on the door displays in Reid Athletic Center, Frank Dining Hall and the O’Connor Campus Center (Coop), which were promptly taken down and then reinstated with the hate speech removed. The doors were a way for stu-dents to express support for LG-BTQ students as part of a “National Coming-Out Week” celebration. “These coming out doors stand to show solidarity with the LGBT community,” reads a message on the “Coming Out” door in the COOP. “We have blacked out those messages, and highlight the positive messages surrounding them.” Senior and co-President of Lambda Steve Dickinson was shocked by the messages. “I became very upset because I’ve known this campus to be a very accepting place, and a few individuals tarnish that wonderful reputation I’ve come to expect of Colgate,” Dickinson said. Vice President and Dean of the College Suzy Nelson strongly condemned the messages. “Acts of bias and hate fundamen-tally undermine what we stand for as an Institution: openness, dignity and respect … they hurt all of us.”

The community response to the events was overwhelming. Around 80 students, faculty and staff met in the Center for Women’s Studies to discuss the incident and potential responses on Thursday, October 18. As a result of this gathering, on Friday October 19, hundreds of supporters made posters to show community support. On Mon-day October 22 in the Coop, students wrote their reactions to the messages and what they have done to stop bias on large posters and over 600 people chose to wear blue to show their sup-port for the LGBTQ community. Junior Mitchell Tucci, an LG-BTQ Initiatives intern, said the outpouring of community support after the incident helped him put the incident in perspective. “As an individual, it just reminds me to be more appreciative of the people I have in my life that are ac-cepting,” Tucci said. “It makes them that much more important to me. I’d also say that the huge amount of peo-ple I saw wearing blue on Monday shows that a few … hateful remarks don’t represent an entire community.” Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and Associate Pro-vost for Equity and Diversity Lyn Rugg said while nobody has been found responsible for the messages, there are programs in place to deal with bias incidents of this nature. “If there are people who know who is behind this, absolutely they should come to me,” Rugg said. “The harassment policy lists the members of the equity grievance panel, and if they wanted to talk to them certainly they can do so.” Later Rugg said in an email that Brown had directed Campus Safety to investigate the messages. However, Dickinson felt there was more for the administration to do to ensure these sort of incidents do not happen again. “I don’t feel that the emphasis of the bias policy has actually helped because there is no recourse for the actions that were taken,” Dickinson said. “I would also like to see a let-ter to the entire Colgate community from President Herbst regarding the incident to emphasize the signifi-cance of what happens and to ensure that it is never happens again.” Sophomore and co-President of Lambda Nicholas Grunden felt that the focus should not be on the incident but rather on positive interactions be-tween the LGBTQ community and other students.

“Personally, I’m not the sort of person to get too fired up. It’s one per-son out of 2,800. What I tried to do is spin it as a positive opportunity to raise awareness. I went to the Thurs-day meeting … My ideas were how we could learn from this, increase our outreach, and make Lambda more present … the more we’re out there, the less likely things like this will happen again. It’s about making connections.” Assistant Director of LG-BTQ Initiatives and CLSI Jamie Bergeron found Colgate’s support in the aftermath to be inspiring. “When things are made public we can gather and create a plan of action which we have seen in the last few days. We have to ask: what can we do to make sure we aren’t only re-sponding to these types of incidents?” Bergeron said. “I feel so inspired by the way campus has come out in support of LGBTQ issues. This is a place that people care about each other.”

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