Author: Compiled by Rachel Silver
After experiencing recent hate crimes on campus, students united last Thursday to discuss the impact, significance, and strategies for future prevention of hate-related events. This week, the Occidental Weekly invited the student body to express opinions regarding the incidents. The following comments are from students across campus who volunteered to share their thoughts with the Occidental community.
“We are very frustrated but also very willful . . . The idea of being ‘better than society’ has brought up feelings of exceptionalism and elitism that we’re not comfortable with.” -David Pino (sophomore)
“We have to stop lying to ourselves. This is not something that happens sometimes. This happens all the time . . . We don’t really have an air of social justice and respect on campus. We say we do, but we don’t.” -Adalberto Rios (senior).
“I think that these hate crimes merely brought to the surface issues that have been hidden – yet definitely real – on Oxy’s campus, and prove that it is not the perfect, liberal, accepting bubble that some people take for granted. If there is any silver lining to these events, it is that hopefully they will encourage a sustained discussion about heterosexism and other social problems at Oxy that largely go ignored.” -Claire Marsden (sophomore).
“I think we put the emphasis on educating students, but we need to educate the faculty too.”
–Hailey Jures (sophomore)
“I ask Oxy, as a community, to find that courage and stand up when these instances occur. Whether discrimination is committed by faculty members (and many of us have experienced this), or it is outside of the classroom, we can make a difference, we are making a difference.”
-ASOC Senator Tyler William Dewey (first-year)
“I’m not sure that there is a way to make sure that this doesn’t happen again, because I think whoever (whether it’s one person or multiple people) did it are most likely good students. I think they’re the people who are nice to you to your face, but then will go and write terrible things on your door, or harass you in other ways. There isn’t really a way to screen people based on their moral compass, because everyone acts differently depending on what kind of situation they’re put into. I don’t think this makes Oxy an unsafe place for LGBT students, but I think it just means everyone has to be really aware of the fact that Occidental isn’t a bubble where nothing goes wrong.”
–Lonnie McGown (sophomore)
“As we progressed in the [panel] discussion, after much debate over how this could happen in the Oxy community and how it can be avoided in the future, one student even commented that she felt there was no real Oxy community– as if we were all talking about something that we hadn’t really made the effort to create in the first place. That made me the saddest….
I felt a reassuring solidarity with the professors who attended and stood their ground that we needed concrete pledges from the administrators regarding the changes to be implemented. The administrators obviously care deeply about these issues, but in years past, this sort of event has come and passed without significant, recognizable changes on campus. I hope this pattern doesn’t continue. I also thought it was important that students expressed their empathy with the perpetrators of the hateful acts– because they, too, suffer from the effects of hate and intolerance. I hope these people will be able to join the discussion and learn more about diversity so they can no longer feel threatened by people who may differ from them.” — Morgan Flake (senior)
“College campuses reflect the issues and norms of society. While recent events have highlighted heterosexism, LGBT issues did not just appear on campus this March. In fact, unreported and silenced experiences of hate and bigotry occur daily in basic student interactions in nearly all environments.” –Qiu Fogarty (sophomore)
“Organizations such as the Center for Gender Equity and the Queer-Straight-Alliance are not given the financial and institutional backing that they need in order to play central roles on our campus. Having one month – Gaypril – and sporadic events/speakers dedicated to issues of sexual diversity cannot possibly change a heteronormative campus culture. The reality is that the perpetrators of these crimes are not those attending this type of programing.” –Isabel Osgood-Roach (junior)
“Hate crimes against anyone hurt and frustrate me. But such events are not eruptions from an otherwise “normal” society. Every day a low level of violence and harassment is enacted against women and LGBTQI members of this campus. Putting an end to ha
te crimes involves a much larger, longer struggle to end a multitude of injustices.” –Estrella Lucero (sophomore).
“My biggest issue with the response around these events is the negativity of many students. This is a time when Oxy should most stick together, and I hear a lot of bad talk about the administration, Campus Safety and Oxy in general. There’s a general impression that the administration and Campus Safety did not respond quickly, when in reality, both took the cases very seriously. From what I’ve heard, Campus Safety did not make their investigations well known because they did not want students pointing fingers.
Students say they are ashamed of Oxy and claim this isn’t the “little utopian campus” they expected. No shit! No place is perfect; what did they expect, Disneyland? If students think these isolated incidents make Oxy a bad place to be at, they should transfer out. I transferred here knowing that hate crimes, as regrettable and unacceptable as they are, happen everywhere, and I knew Oxy not to let any go unnoticed. I am very relieved to hear that Oxy students did not commit the homophobic physical assault last week; it was an Oxy student’s visiting friends. In this case, we should take more responsibility for our visitors. This isn’t the first time visiting people were the cause of violence at Oxy, and it’s a shame that our campus’ openness is exploited by these assholes. Their actions should not reflect our campus’ climate. If anything, Oxy’s reputation as a very liberal place make it an easier target for these crimes.
The fact is, hate crimes and violence happen everywhere. At Boston College, where I transferred from, my openly gay friend was called a “f*g” and attacked when he was walking home off campus. The most the school responded to this incident was an article in the school newspaper, which HE wrote himself. That these recent incidents at Oxy caused such an stir shows how tolerant and diverse the campus is; these crimes are clearly unacceptable…. We should be focusing on the immense solidarity on this campus and the immediate support this community gives. I am very proud of Oxy for these reasons.”
–Jeremiah Wang (junior)
“I’ve heard some of my friends ask why those types of people come to Oxy since we’re such a liberal and progressive school, but I don’t think that question is getting to the root of the problem. Lots of heterosexist people come to Oxy, just like lots of racist, classist and people with other prejudices come to Oxy. The programming on campus meant to target these prejudices is either ignored or assumed to be meant for “someone else”….
When the school markets itself as being diverse, they aren’t speaking to the students of different sexual orientations. The queer community at this school is very small, and the societal shame and stigma attached to not being straight makes any numbers, no matter how speculative, totally unreliable (and thus do not lend themselves to published statistics)….
Part of creating a strong community is fostering a culture in which all students can feel safe, and, quite simply, Oxy is not a safe space for many students, queer or not.” –Alex Miller (junior)
“I’m happy that the administration is addressing these important issues and expressing their dedication to making changes at an institutional level, such as implementing a mandatory and comprehensive, bystander-intervention training during orientation (one that focuses on racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism and ableism).” –Becca Cooper (junior)
“Certain individuals will always find a way to breach the safety that, at least I, have felt during my time on campus. I was disappointed that swifter action was not taken by Campus Safety to alert students to danger on/near campus (both this event and others). Students need to be made aware of aggressive actions taken against their colleagues so that they themselves can remain safe, and so that the student body can respond as a whole to incidents of hate. That said, I felt that the forum conducted on Wednesday was effective at bringing a more complete message to the students, but in the future such actions should be taken even sooner. Occidental is an accepting place, but we should not take this for granted. Students should strive to protect their peers and quell messages of hate, be they homophobic, racist, or sexist.” –Dana Coffman (junior)
“There are a great deal of people on this campus who take on an agenda of social justice with an air of understanding and compassion. There are many members of this student body, however, who freely make racist, sexist, and homophobic comments; comments that largely go unchallenged. While we might condemn the recent acts of hate, I hope that we are all willing to evaluate how we ourselves contribute to heterosexism and homophobia either through our actions or through our language. If we are willing to look at ourselves, maybe then a change of culture can take place. That is my hope for this campus.” –Rachel Buckner (first-year)
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