Students protest anti-gay messages Goucher College rally responds to hate incidents

October 23, 1998|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

Almost 200 students, faculty and staff gathered at Goucher College last night to protest anti-gay sentiments that have been scrawled recently in the college's four dormitories.

"I've been absolutely thrilled with all the support we received since the anti-gay incidents at Goucher," said Sarah Pinsker, 21, a senior who was one of the organizers of the rally and was the target of an anti-gay message scrawled on her door about a month ago.

"We're here to support civil rights," Pinsker said.

"We understand that hatred has no place in this community," said Goucher President Judy Jolley Mohraz. "You tonight have shown, as you always do, that this is a community that cares about each other. The question of hate speech, the question of hate acts, the question of hate directed toward any group or individual is simply unthinkable."

The 10 p.m. rally was preceded by a student march to show support for the gay community and student safety. During the march, more than 100 students walked through the dorms, chanting slogans such as "Hate and violence have got to go."

The rally and march were organized in response to several anti-gay messages on the campus in recent weeks.

The first incident occurred Sept. 23 after a presentation on AIDS prevention at the college, said Goucher spokeswoman Deidre Hill. The most recent incident was Oct. 16, she said.

At least two of the notes -- "That faggot deserved to die" and "Who will be next?" -- are believed to refer to Matthew Shepard, the gay 21-year-old University of Wyoming student who died after being pistol-whipped and left lashed to a fence in near-freezing temperatures.

An unidentified Goucher student took responsibility Tuesday for writing most of the 11 messages found on message boards on dorm doors, bulletin boards and bathrooms, Hill said.

The maximum possible punishment is expulsion, but any disciplinary action will be kept confidential, she said.

The student came forward after the college threatened to turn the matter over to Baltimore County police if no one claimed responsibility, Hill said.

The college -- a private, coeducational, liberal arts institution of about 1,100 students -- is continuing to investigate the matter internally, she said.

Since the incidents were reported, Goucher students and college officials have responded with discussions and fliers denouncing the messages.

Representatives of the student government association and BGLAD, (Bisexuals, Gays, Lesbians and Straights for Diversity), a student organization, have distributed "Safe Zone" signs and "End Hate Crimes" buttons.

This is the second time in two years that Goucher College officials and students have faced a divisive situation on campus.

In February 1997, students held a forum to protest a basketball coach's racially insensitive remark after he referred to the team as "my plantation."

The incident led to a schoolwide examination of how students and faculty members deal with race. The coach issued a written apology.

Pub Date: 10/23/98

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