You may have heard about the homophobic incident that occurred on campus a few weeks ago. Or maybe you haven’t…and that’s half the story. middbeat will bring you up to speed–
UPDATE 10/15 1:30PM: Dean of the College Shirley Collado has just sent a second follow-up email to students, faculty and staff regarding the incident.
You can read the full text of her email after the jump.
A week ago today, Dean of the College Shirley Collado sent out an all-school email stating that a Middlebury student “reported receiving a disturbing and threatening printed note,” that Public Safety is investigating the incident, and that we should all read up on the school’s Anti-Harassment/Discrimination Policy. It would have been easy to catch a glance of the the jargon-y “Middlebury College is committed to maintaining an atmosphere where students, faculty and staff feel safe and fully accepted…” stuff and delete the email with the swipe of a finger on the way to class, without catching any notice of the incident that prompted the message. That’s what I did at first, to be honest.
The Op-Ed in last week’s issue of The Campus was decidedly harder to ignore. The piece, written by the board members of the new student organization Queers & Allies (Q&A), specified that the “disturbing and threatening note” was homophobic and sexually violent. The authors reprinted sections of the note, too, which contained phrases like “carpet-munching dyke,” “burn in hell,” “you say you’re gay but we know you’ve never fucked a guy… so we’re gonna fuck you till you’re straight.” The authors expressed dismay that the administrative reaction to this shocking incident was both vague and overdue, saying that such a response keeps many of us blissfully unaware of the presence of rape culture and LGBTQ discrimination on campus (“at Middlebury? But we’re soo progressive!”), and prevents our community from engaging in productive dialogue about these urgent issues.
The authors state that “[t]here are, sadly, homophobic threats and graffiti that go seemingly unnoticed on campus every year.” The most high-profile incident in recent memory occurred in April 2010, when several Gaypril posters were ripped down. The administration responded swiftly and strongly; Dean Longman and President Liebowitz sent out all-school emails not only condemning the act, but also providing thoughtful reflection on how we could move forward as a community. In his email, Dean Longman wrote at length about the ALLY Group, working to improve the campus climate for LGBTQ students, and he encouraged students to contact him to join the initiative. He delivered a powerful ultimatum to the entire Middlebury community, “Two steps forward or one step back: it is OUR collective choice…”
These varied responses- and responses to the responses- raise a lot of questions about how we handle these incidents. In her all-school email, Dean Collado stated that “[t]he College takes seriously all reports of threats and harassment.” What does it mean to take threats seriously? What should it mean? Q&A is proposing that it involves community discussion, not just disciplinary action: “[H]omophobia, hate speech, and rape culture…will not be eliminated without action from the entire community.”
Here’s the thing about community discussion, though: the community has to show up. For that to happen, the community has to know what’s going on. As of this morning, there was only one comment on the Op-Ed online (there are 350 on The Campus’ article about the 9/11 incident, plus another 220 here on middbeat, by the way). There’s not even any discussion of this incident on MiddConfessional. Do people just not know about this? Here’s the more troubling question: do we care? It scares me that we might let this blow over. If we choose to ignore the presence of hatred on our campus, what does that say about our community? About us, as individuals?
Tomorrow is our chance to demonstrate our support for our LGBTQ classmates, professors, staff members, and friends. The Q&A Board will be hosting a “special debrief” about the incident tomorrow (Tuesday) at 7 p.m. in the Redfield Proctor Lounge. Let’s be there.
Date: Tuesday October 15th
Place: Redfield Proctor Lounge