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Letter to the editor

On Sept. 22, an 18-year-old Rutgers student named Tyler Clementi committed suicide after he was outed as being gay over the Internet by fellow students. Earlier last month, several teenagers in the U.S. (Seth Walsh, 13, Asher Brown, 13, Justin Aaberg, 15 and Billy Lucas, 15) committed suicide after facing similar bullying because of their sexual orientation.

 

We assume that it was in response to these events that the Student Development office sent out an e-mail on Oct. 4 to the Eastern community titled, “Important Notice Concerning Harassment and Sex Discrimination.” However, the e-mail contained only vague statements about “support” and information about the university’s stand on sex discrimination.

 

It redirected attention away from the reality of these tragedies to an unrelated harassment policy. The recent suicides of the aforementioned teenagers were a result of homophobia, not sex discrimination. The Student Development e-mail omitted any mention of the real issues behind the deaths and a discussion of Eastern’s treatment of sexual minorities.

 

The author of the e-mail wrote, “Eastern supports equal treatment of people,” which is a statement so vague that it loses all meaning. What does “support” mean? What is “equal”? Which “people”? What does Eastern plan to do to support all people? That is a very bold statement without any solid backing.

 

The e-mail concludes by urging victims and observers of “bad behavior” to contact the Student Development or Student Services staff for “conversation, guidance and support.” However, there is a disconnect between Student Development’s recommendation and their actual policies.

 

The very absence of “sexual orientation” or “transgender” in the discrimination policy and other statements about diversity in the student handbooks leads us to conclude that we are not a university that promises to protect members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender, Queer/Questioning community from harassment or discrimination.

 

We are not trying to imply that individuals on the staff do not care about harassment of sexual minorities, or is not willing to provide counsel for such students. However, there should have been a clearer description of why this particular email was sent at this particular time, and there should be a more holistic discrimination policy if there truly is just and equal treatment of people.

 

This reaction to tragic events and the subsequent issues raised about society’s treatment of the LGBTQ community is simply inadequate. Why did Student Development feel the need to draw attention to an event closely linked to harassment based on sexual orientation without ever actually discussing that issue? We wish Student Development would have used the e-mail to recognize the serious implications this event has for our university and its treatment of the LGBTQ community.

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