A year ago this week, on Feb 23, 2008, homophobic slurs were scrawled outside a student’s dorm room and some of the student’s property was vandalized. Over the course of the next ten days, 34 LGBTQ students were sent anti-queer hate mail and offensive and potentially threatening e-mails. After each event, the campus community came together for rallies and a forum, and well over 100 students chanted supportive cheers as they marched from Main Hall to the JRC to proclaim both their anger and their solidarity.
To remember the anti-queer acts and the supportive community response, and to continue the dialogue on issues of campus inclusiveness, the Stonewall Resource Center (SRC), in collaboration with other LGBTQ groups, has scheduled a number of events that they hope will bring last year’s acts into focus.
The series of events includes an informal workshop taking place today at which students will be able to apply iron-on “Hate Free” decals to clothing and backpacks, and a facilitated panel discussion on Monday at which administrators and sociology professors will answer questions about the overall community impact of these kinds of events. The events will wrap up Tuesday with a speak-out in Bob’s Underground where students can reflect and share their personal experiences with last year’s events.
According to SRC Program Coordinator Brian Perbix ’09, the programs aim to remind people about the magnitude of last year’s events and foster a continuing dialogue about Grinnell’s campus climate since the events. “It would be irresponsible of us to let this moment pass unacknowledged,” Perbix said.
Leah Krandel ’09, one of the organizers of the speak out, said that the event will provide an opportunity for victims to share their emotions, particularly friends of those who received letters, a group that Krandel described as “secondary victims.”
“It’s a hard place to be in where you were upset, and you were a secondary victim of what happened but your feelings weren’t as legitimized because you didn’t have a physical letter,” Krandel said. “I needed support but so did all my friends.”
Despite last year’s outpouring of support, many students said that the campus has a long way to go. According to Ryan Carlino ’10, people in the Grinnell LGBTQ community are still confronted by people insensitive to their sexuality.
“Grinnell is a great place to be openly gay compared to a lot of schools,” Carlino said. “But people still do not feel comfortable being publicly, openly out, or expressing affection toward their partner, it shows that there is still maybe some tension or things going on campus
[that do not support being gay].”
Krandel said she hopes that the week will increase dialogue on campus regarding campus attitudes towards the LGBTQ community. “I’m going into this with the hope that we’ll give people the opportunity to continued dialogue about this and encourage people to remember that this happened,” Krandel said. “These … happen a lot on this campus, and we don’t talk about them.”