"Heinous act" of homophobia shocks Central Washington University

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Image courtesy of CWU Libraries
Image courtesy of CWU Libraries

Central Washington University students, faculty, and staff woke up on Oct. 23 to learn of a "heinous act" of homophobic and politically partisan vandalism at the campus library. Although the markings were quickly erased, questions of campus safety for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender students remain.

"It is important to state, unequivocally, that the propagation of hate will not be tolerated at our university," wrote CWU President Jim Wohlpart in a campus-wide email. "Central Washington University has zero tolerance for any act of hate or aggression against any member of our LGBTQIA+ community or any other member of our community.

"We are an inclusive and accepting university that is strongly committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment for all of our students. We will not tolerate any types of actions that reduce the humanity of others, make them feel unwelcome, or decrease their sense of safety and belonging."

Wohlpart added that anyone with information about the vandalism should call 509-963-2111 or email [email protected], saying that confidentiality is assured.

Meanwhile, campus police are investigating the incident. The markings have since been removed by facility staff.

Equality through Queers and Allies (EQuAl), a student-run organization dedicated to providing a "safe space for all" at CWU, issued a statement on its Facebook page, which read that the library incident was just one of a "plethora of experiences" that "many of our members and members of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole" have confronted.

Image courtesy of CWU EQuAl  

"On the CWU campus alone, our community witnessed our flag, which serves as our symbol of pride, peace, and unity, being mutilated during a time when we nationally celebrate our communal strength-only four months ago," the Facebook post read. "It is these acts of hatred which constantly remind us that we must also reflect on our grief, grief for the children who are teased so terribly that they retract from school, grief for the individuals who are shunned from what they thought was supposed to be their home, and grief for the individuals who conclude that taking their own life is less painful than experiencing yet another incident of hatred. And we are all too familiar with something seemingly so trivial as pen markings in a library pushing one of our people to that decision."

The post continued: "So many of us have exceeded a point of inquisition accustomed to, 'when will it stop?' and have arrived at a point where we now ask, 'when will it happen again?' For that reason, [EQuAl] consolidates with our members and all members of the LGBTQ+ community to remind those who are weak in hope and those who fight against us that LOVE WILL ALWAYS CONQUER HATE."

EQuAl is part of the Equity & Services Council (ESC) at CWU. The student organization did not respond to a message from the SGN on Facebook. The SGN also reached out to the ESC but did not receive a reply by press time.

CWU has scheduled a Diversity, Equity & Inclusivity Town Hall on Nov. 4 in the Wellington Event Center to "discuss current and upcoming initiatives the [Diversity and Inclusivity] office is leading and promoting to address issues on campus."

A third town hall will be held virtually online some time before the end of fall quarter, according to a campus announcement. A short two-question survey from DEI is also available to students until the town hall. Tickets to the town halls are encouraged; they are available at cwuwildcattickets.universitytickets.com.

Washington state Senate Bill 5227 was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on May 12. The legislation requires diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism training and assessments at institutions of higher education. Sen. Marko Liias (D-Everett), who is openly Gay, was one of 12 state senators who sponsored the legislation. It is unclear, however, how the legislation might benefit students, faculty, and staff safety at CWU.

"It was disheartening to see this instance of hate on Central's campus," Senator Liias said in an email statement. "College environments should be places where students feel like they belong and can thrive, and a core part of achieving that is making sure that faculty and staff are able to build supportive environments. Sen. Randall's SB 5227, which we passed this session, will help provide faculty and staff with more resources to reach these goals and support students."