University of Washington-Bothell GSA Responds to Anti-Gay Graffiti
When Heather Meyer-Love, president of Gay Straight Alliance the University of Washington-Bothell learned that someone had scrawled "FAGS" onto a campus map last month, she was understandably offended. But she decided she would not allow this hateful language to thrive on campus.
"For me, this is a compromise and a breach of safety for my community. And as the Gay Straight Alliance president, I feel it is my responsibility to ensure that everyone in this community is treated with respect," said Meyer-Love. "That’s why I took the stance to say, ’Look - we’re here and we’re not gonna tolerate this.’"
Meyer-Love spearheaded a "Not on Our Campus" campaign, where GSA students tabled common areas on campus for four days, speaking with students about the incident.
According to Meyer-Love, nearly 200 people signed three large posters with their names and messages of anti-hate. She wore a button with a slash through the words "HATE CRIMES" during the tabling efforts.
"We want to educate people that may tolerate hate, and listen to people that don’t tolerate it," she said. "It’s been amazing. It’s been received really well."
GSA Vice President Drue Nyenthuis, who is also a senior at UW-Bothell, said the incident made him second-guess the good nature of the campus.
"It reminded me of regressing back to juvenile, high-school age," he told the Bothell Reporter. "That’s not the respectful, higher-level academic setting that we’re in. We’re performing at a better level."
According to Meyer-Love, she discussed the matter with Freddie Hensen, president of the Associated Students of UW-Bothell (AS UW-B.) The graffiti had been written steps away from his office. Luckily, only a few people had seen the writing as it was immediately removed from the wall, according to local media reports.
Due to the fact that two members of the AS UW-B are openly gay, Meyer-Love said this incident may have been an attack against them. She met with Chancellor Kenyon Chan after her meeting with Hensen.
Chan noted in an email to students and faculty that "although this offense was targeted at our LGTB community, it is an insult to all of us,"
"I hope all of you will join me in commenting on the ’wall’ and signing the commitment," wrote Chan. "It will demonstrate to those who were wounded by this single act of hate that this community stands with them."
According to school officials, the school reported the incident to Campus Safety and the Bothell Police Department for investigation.
Vice Chancellor Richard Penny told the Bothell Reporter that this is the first anti-gay incident of which the administration has heard and noted "how proud we are of our students, the way they’re turning what was certainly a very, very unfortunate and regrettable event" into an educational dialogue between the students through the campaign.
Meyer-Love said the UW-Bothell GSA isn’t finished just yet. Her group is planning a zero-tolerance campaign next month that will feature guest speakers, music and other events.