LGBT groups seek better awareness on campus after incident
A display made on one of the spirit rocks in remembrance of transgender individuals lost to violence was defaced on the night of Nov. 30.
The rock, which was painted by Pride and Rainbow Guard, was commemorating Transgender Day of Remembrance — an annual observance that memorializes those who were killed as a result of anti-transgender violence. This year, the Day of Remembrance was Nov. 20.
On the morning of Dec. 1, the rock was found with the word “weird” spray-painted over the message. Additionally, a separate rock painted with the words “#BlackLivesMatter” was also painted over with the words “#AllLivesMatter” for the second time in a month.
Rainbow Guard President Adam Richards said he was upset by the message.
“Who does that?” he said. “I think the striking thing to me was the fact (that) they had … put ‘All Lives Matter’ over the ‘Black Lives Matter’ stuff and then went and defaced a memorial for dead transgender people … I mean, you know, your true colors are showing here.”
Although Richards was angered by what happened, he said there isn’t anything the university can do to discipline whoever was involved with painting the words.
“As abhorrent as all of that is, it does fall within the purview of First Amendment rights,” he said.
University policy states that messages on the Spirit Rocks must comply with the Handbook of Operating Procedures. In Chapter 46 of the handbook, Subchapter B, there are four types of prohibited expression: obscenity, defamation, speech that incites imminent violations of the law and solicitation.
Kim Winkler, the associate dean of students, said this specific case does not fall under the type of speech that is deemed unacceptable by the university.
She said incidents where the language is more threatening are treated differently.
“(That) would go through our discipline process,” she said. “If the people were identified, then we would do an investigation and it would follow our regular discipline process.”
She said no one has contacted the Dean of Students office about the incidents yet, but she also acknowledged that if students wanted to see a change in how the University polices the Spirit Rocks, then the Dean of Students would consider it.
“If students felt like something about how the rocks are done, the ability to have that freedom of expression, if they feel like that needs to be changed, then we would certainly look at that,” she said.
Even though Richards said the university has made great strides in regards to LGBT rights — like allowing preferred names on Comet Cards — he said he still wants people to understand that this type of action should not be acceptable, and that the university should make its commitment to the LGBT community clear.
“At the very base level, that’s kind of what we expect,” he said. “We just kind of want acknowledgement that, first off, this is happening. Second off, that they’re committed to not just the LGBT community, because the Black Lives Matter stuff is being vandalized too. I want the university to be re-committing itself to educating people about the struggles of minority students and why this kind of behavior is not OK and what this kind of behavior does to people and the kind of environment it can create on campus.”