Henry Hicks was writing an e-mail blast in the Phi Theta Kappa office, part of his regular duties as vice-president of communications for the honors society, when he heard shouting coming from the Student Activities Hall.
Soon, several students from various clubs were outside their offices, and it became clear that a conflict was escalating. “Other students were trying to hold people back because they were about to fight each other” said Hicks.
Hicks then made an effort to diffuse the situation. “I said ‘you guys have to stop before security gets called.’”
What Hicks received was a hostile reaction. One of the participants began approaching him, and even began to shout: “he started coming towards me and yelling, and he used the word ‘faggot’ once,” Hicks, who identifies as bi-sexual, recalled.
“After they approached me and used the slurs, I said, ‘what did you call me?’” said Hicks. “After they repeated it and came closer I felt threatened, so I closed the door and said ‘Okay fine, I’m calling security”
According to Hicks though, someone had beat him to it:“Security must have been called by someone else because as I was trying to contact them, they arrived.” As security arrived, the students involved in the fight scattered.
As things around the activities hall settled down, the weight of the situation became clear: “At the time I didn’t realize how serious it was until it sunk in” said Hicks, somewhat shaken “I was anxious and nervous for a few days. I didn’t feel safe enough to come to school”
This isn’t the first time students at MCCC have seen controversy surrounding LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender) issues. An incident reported in May 2010 involved another student who had slurs directed at him from security staff.
The use of hate-speech towards LGBT students isn’t an MCCC-exclusive phenomenon. The 2011 National School Climate Survey, a study which examines experiences of LGBT students, found that over 70 percent of LGBT students have heard slurs often, and that nearly 85 percent of LGBT students have reported being verbally harassed.
“And when someone uses a slur in a hateful way, you can tell,” said Hicks.
According to Dr. Diane Campbell, Dean of Students at MCCC, the administration is not blind to the issue. “[President Donohue] asked us to do some research in order to find posters that would make some statements about diversity,” said Campbell, “and also to look at how those posters can send a message that would be related to humanity on campus.”
Will Leavey, a second year digital film major and president of the LGBTF club at MCCC, doesn’t feel this is enough. “It’s a step in the right direction, but posters can only do so much,” said Leavey. “I believe actual meetings with students, like some kind of seminar or class, are much more important”
According to Dean Campbell, student attitudes towards LGBT students seem to be steadily improving. “I think this generation is more open than any other generation ever,” said Campbell. “When the LGBTF club used to meet, there were students who would come by and say really nasty things. After a while though, the club got more support as more faculty supported it.”
In 2010 the VOICE reported a clash between members of the LGBTF (LGBT and Friends) club and staff at MCCC, in which students participating in a kiss-in event were pulled apart by security. Dr. Diane Rizzo, English Professor and Faculty Advisor to the LGBTF club offered some insight to the changing culture on campus.
“There have been kiss-ins since then without incident,” said Dr. Rizzo, “I’d take that as a step forward. I’d be really surprised if something that charged happened again… I think there’s been a change, at least tacitly, in the culture at that level.”
Several students have also expressed acceptance towards the LGBTF club and community on campus.
Miles Applegate, an exercise science major at MCCC said, “I think it’s kind of cool to have your own set group that supports who you are and supports what you’re doing, but that also involves people from outside the club.”
Christopher Robinson an architecture major at MCCC empathized with LGBTF’s cause, “It’s a good thing, everyone should feel free and have an opportunity to feel free.”
However, some students have expressed discomfort with the club and community.
Timothy Brown, an EET major at MCCC said, “They kiss right here, that’s about all I know about them. That’s a little uncomfortable for me.”
Members of the club have found it to be a source of friendship and community.
“ I used to be kind of a shut in, I never talked to many people,” said Sam Peterson, a first year high-school jumpstart student at MCCC. “It’s definitely helped me branch out”
Leavey also said that the administration should take a clear stance on the issue, and the consequences of bullying on campus. “The administration should put out an e-mail stating that discrimination on campus will not be tolerated.”