About 400 people gathered Monday night for a town hall meeting organized by the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center at UC Davis.
The meeting was called after the entrance to the LGBT Resource Center was vandalized Friday with spray-painted epithets and derogatory statements. The UC Davis Police Department is investigating the incident as a hate crime.
Much of the early discussion was about whether the media should be allowed in the room. Four local television news crews had cameras rolling when LGBT Resource Center intern Laura Mitchell took the lectern and said some people were uncomfortable with the media presence.
“The media needs to leave — right now,” Mitchell said. “We’re respectfully asking you to pack up and go.”
A few minutes later, LGBT Resource Center director Sheri Atkinson told the audience that the media had been invited by a press release and that she agreed to do an interview with them in the back. The news cameras then moved into the hallway and interviewed students who were willing to speak.
Another point of contention was the presence of UC Davis administrators. Chancellor Linda Katehi spoke briefly at the beginning of the meeting to condemn the vandalism. More than half a dozen vice chancellors also came to listen and observe.
Sarah Raridon, chair of ASUCD’s Gender and Sexuality Commission, forcefully denounced them.
“I am seethingly angry that there are administrators here now who have never represented my community,” Raridon said.
Former ASUCD Senator Sergio Blanco said administrators were wrong to be reacting to the recent incident of vandalism rather than addressing the underlying issue of homophobia on campus. Blanco noted that BloodSource, a local blood bank, is still allowed to come to campus and run blood drives that explicitly discriminate against men who have had sex with men.
One student, who did not give her name, said it was good that administrators were present to show their support but said they needed to put that into action and provide more funding for the LGBT Resource Center and other resources on campus dedicated to supporting disadvantaged groups.
Several of the speakers — including students, staff, and faculty — said students should be required to take a class on oppression, diversity and hate speech. These calls were mostly met with support from the audience. One speaker, a staff member, said she has been required by various employers to attend diversity training programs that were basically pointless and cautioned against allowing ineffective diversity programs to be implemented at UC Davis.
ASUCD Senator Alison Tanner said it was important for people to act individually as well as collectively. She said people need to speak out when their friends use demeaning language, a point that another speaker expanded on.
“You can draw a direct line from someone saying ‘fag’ to someone vandalizing the center,” said the speaker, who did not give his name. He said that men need to be especially aware of what they are saying and what they are allowing their male friends to say — not just turn the other cheek and pretend it didn’t happen.
UC Davis police have not identified any suspects in the LGBT Resource Center vandalism incident. Anyone with information is asked to call UCDPD at 752-1727.
The LGBT Resource Center will host a workshop called “That’s So Bleep” on Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Memorial Union King Lounge. The program is designed to raise awareness of the relationship between hate speech, prejudice and oppression.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.