October 23, 2017

Students respond to hate crime in dorms with protest, solidarity

Since Webster University reported a hate crime on campus when flyers carrying racist and homophobic messages were found in West Hall, students and staff have responded with art, protest and solidarity.

The Webster LGBTQ Alliance, which aims to promote a safe and inclusive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer-identifying Webster students, said in a statement they will work with other student organizations and Webster’s administration to respond.

“The incident that occurred this week not only contradicted our core values as a club, but the values we uphold as students of Webster University,” the statement read. “It was not just an attack on an individual. It was an attack on the Webster University community as a whole. Acts of hate such as this will not be taken lightly and will not be tolerated.”

The LGBTQ Alliance has been posting locations on their Facebook page where students can meet to find support throughout the week.

“We stand with the student who was targeted by this hate, and with all other LGBTQ+ students and students of color at Webster,” the statement read.

Webster’s Multicultural Center and International Student Affairs (MCISA) organized an event which invited students to submit art expressing their emotions about the crime, which will be displayed publicly around campus throughout the week.

Other students took their dissatisfaction to the streets.

Webster’s Student Worker Alliance (SWA) led a student protest Dec. 6 on campus in response to the incident, with the theme of “No Pride for Some of Us Without Liberation for All of Us: Queer and Black Lives Fight Back.”

The protest was attended by about 20 people.

“I’m here to stand in solidarity with other people of color, queer students,” senior history major Wes Schnitker said.

Schnitker said the march responded not only to one incident, but to the pattern of inequality the SWA sees on campus, which they expressed in an earlier protest Nov. 22.

“We’re here to stand in solidarity against [the hate crime], but also against the actions of the administration that carry out the same harm against these sorts of communities on campus,” Schnitker said. “The actions of Webster do not reflect them being a diverse and inclusive school.”

Junior sociology major Miranda Alexander, who also attended the protest, agreed the problem is larger than one person.

Student Wes Schnitker leading the protest with chants by Emerson Library on campus / Photo by Sara Bannoura

Student Wes Schnitker leading the protest with chants by Emerson Library on campus / Photo by Sara Bannoura

“The racism and homophobia that one student acted on is a result of the ingrained systemic racism and inequality within this university and our society especially with our most recent president-elect,” Alexander said. “As a queer woman, I am outraged at the racism and inequality.”

Other students at the protest tied the issue to the lack of African-American or Latin-American studies departments and a majority-white faculty at Webster.

“I’m here for the students who don’t have their voices heard here, who don’t feel they have a voice and don’t feel appreciated or welcomed here on campus. I’m standing in solidarity,” freshman studio art major Tiana Bojorquez said.

At a town hall-style meeting with the Webster Staff Alliance (WSA) today, Webster University President Elizabeth Stroble and Provost Julian Schuster also said the sentiment expressed on the flyers was contradictory to Webster’s essential values.

Stroble said faculty and staff should exercise extra care and understanding with students during the final two weeks of the semester.

“We don’t want students to feel unsafe here,” Stroble said. “That’s a betrayal of our promise to them.”

Editor’s Note: The Journal printed MCISA as standing for Multicultural and International Student Association in the original article. The story has been corrected, as MCISA stands for Multicultural Center and International Student Affairs. The Journal apologizes for the error.

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