There is no excuse for anyone to live in a constant state of fear. It is easy for many of us at Western to forget that in parts of our nation, our state—even our hometown—people live in fear of attack. Last week many of us were reminded of the reality of a society which does not inherently provide a safe space for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people.
In the past few weeks eight hate-motivated crimes were reported at Washington State University and in Pullman.
The survivor of the first reported assault, Kristopher Shultz, was shouted at and knocked unconscious the night of Oct. 15, according to The Advocate, a national LGBT publication. Shultz describes the experience of LGBT people at WSU in the article.
“It's a constant environment of being afraid,” Shultz said. “It's just come to the surface now.”
Two days after the first assault a student reported that a group of three masked men assaulted a transgender WSU student.
Two days after the second assault another student was attacked in a parking structure on the WSU campus.
On Oct. 22 one of the ASWSU Senate members was followed home by people shouting racist and homophobic slurs after the Senate discussed the attacks at a meeting.
It wasn't until Oct. 23, a week after the first attack, that WSU administration sent an e-mail informing WSU students about the attacks and the possible targeting of the LGBT community.
“The hate crimes that occurred on the campus are not acceptable by any means, yet they seemed to be downplayed by the administration,” Neuhauser said. “This depletes my confidence in the administration and raises questions as to why this vital information was not made available to the general student body more quickly.”
It is worrying that WSU administration did not notify students about a single violent attack near campus. But, it is inexcusable that WSU administration did not notify students of three hate-motivated attacks until two days after the third attack.
Had the first assault been addressed by campus-wide notification and a reminder of campus resources the following attacks may have been prevented, whether by deterring attackers or opening the eyes of students to violence in the community around them.
After an assault in any campus community students should be notified of possible dangers and reminded of resources on campus. Whether or not an assault is targeted to a specific population, every student would benefit from campus-wide awareness of an assault in the community.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender students and staff should not be responsible for raising concerns of safety after three attacks against LGBT students in eight days.
Everyone is responsible for the safety of our community.
Chelsea Tremblay, the president of the WSU Young Democrats said she is disappointed in the WSU administration.
“Personally I'm heartbroken that my friends are being targeted and I wish the administration was taking the initiative without the need of students to ask for action,” Tremblay said.
While no one would like to think that violence could strike in their community, it is happening in our own state. I think that the lack of response by WSU administration after the first attack in Pullman coupled with the sentiments of the local LGBT people and allies can only reflect the sad truth that communities in America can still be unsafe for LGBT people. It is characteristic of a greater community which is not only ill-prepared to address the reality of violence but is painfully unaware of the community's responsibility to its marginalized populations.
I would like to think this sort of attack is unlikely on Western's campus, but I am unwilling to sit idly by and allow the possibility of violence to thrive in silence.
Last week Western President Bruce Shepard notified Western of the attacks through an e-mail.
“It is my hope that we will all do whatever we can to make Western a place where everyone feels safe, respected and supported,” Shepard wrote. “I encourage you to report any behavior that you see as threatening to our community.”
The Ally Building Network, a student group in the Lifestyle Advisor Program, tabled to collect letters to send the survivors of the assaults and the WSU community. But, as a public university in Washington State our responsibility to our community does not stop there.
I urge everyone at Western: do not allow our community to be a place where blatant—even subtle—acts of hatred are tolerated. Voice your commitment to the safety of everyone, whether that is through a letter to the survivors of the attacks at WSU, or speaking up against a homophobic slur in class.
Realize that Washington State is still a place where people experience discrimination, hatred and sometimes violence for their identity, whether that is sexuality, gender expression, ability, religion, race, ethnicity or sex. Our community continues to be unsafe if we allow acts like the assaults in Pullman to pass by remaining inactive and silent.
Please help make WWU and Washington State a community where every person is safe.
For more information or to get involved contact the LGBT Alliance: 360.650.6120
For emotional support contact the Counseling Center: 360.650.3164
In case of emergency or report any violence: University Police: 360.650.3911.