CSU community responding to anti-LGBTQ posting

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On Monday, a racist and anti-LGBTQ posting was found on Cleveland State University’s campus which urged LGBTQ students to kill themselves.

CSU President Ronald M. Berkman has put out two statements, both of which appeal to the First Amendment in some way, implying that this is somehow protected speech.

First and foremost, the poster was a threat of violence to LGBTQ students. It both encourages self harm and implies “or we will.” Note that the figure hangs and the silhouette has their hands tied behind their back. Such a threat is unacceptable in any setting, but especially directed towards students in what should be a safe learning environment.

Second: although free speech on campus is an issue with decades of debate and is currently in national focus, hate speech and threats of violence are unacceptable. LGBTQ students should have access to a learning environment where they are not told to kill themselves.

Finally, CSU has always attempted to provide a safe, supportive community for all students. This action violates that social contract. All students should be able to attend class and be present on campus without fear or threat of harm. In a statement on October 10th released to the university, President Berkman emphasized Cleveland State’s reaffirmed commitment to the provision of a welcoming campus. We would like this to be the case.

Cleveland State University’s Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Violence and Retaliation (3344-02-03) defines harassment as “unwelcome verbal, non-verbal, graphic, physical, electronic or other conduct that subjects an individual to an intimidating, hostile or offensive educational or employment environment which (a) Denigrates, insults, ridicules, disparages or stereotypes an individual or an individual’s conduct, family, friends, habits or lifestyle; and (b) Is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it limits or interferes with the individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from the university’s programs or activities (emphasis ours). We appreciate the October 10th statement, and assert that postings of the nature discovered on campus containing threats of violence constitute clear harassment and contribute to a hostile learning environment.

Simply put: the language in the posters must be condemned, and the individuals targeted by them must be provided support.

Equality Ohio has reached out to Cleveland State University officials and is available to provide any assistance needed to move forward constructively. 

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