By Dennis Rivera
Bobby Sergent, president of PRIDE Club, filed a report on Jan. 18 about a perpetrator who entered the Student Clubs and Organization’s office and wrote “Kill the Gay” on the club’s flier. The suspect has yet to be identified despite being seen in the room writing on the poster by the campus surveillance. The report filed with the Campus Security has been passed on to the Elyria Police Department. The vice president and president of LCCC were also notified of the incident.
Sergent said this is the first such incident to happen to PRIDE Club since he became president. According to Sergent, members of the club have been informed of the incident and continue to be a motivated group determined to continue their work to bring “awareness, education, and understanding of the LGBT community and the issues we face.”
This crime is the first of its kind to happen at LCCC in several years. In his 12 years experience, Keith Brown, director of Campus Security, has recalled this recent incident to be the third with hate crime motivation. “We are fortunate that the vast majority of our campus community members are law-abiding citizens who are comfortable with and celebrate the diversity that teems from our institution,” said Brown.
Brown defined a hate crime as “a crime or incident that occurs (against a person or property) and is specifically motivated by a perpetrator’s bias or prejudice against someone for their perceived membership in a specific group.” He went on to say that a hate crime can also be committed through words.
Eman Hassouneh, president of the recently-formed Muslim Student Association (MSA), said her club members were targeted by an individual who, during welcome week, approached the MSA table and asked the group, “why should we join your group? You guys are terrorists.” Hate crimes are very serious to society, and LCCC has taken notice of these issues, and taken steps to make sure these acts do not happen again. The first step was revising the Code of Conduct.
“The new Code of Conduct is currently online and being utilized in determining infractions and sanctions,” stated Kathy Lathwell, academic advisor and coordinator for the Code of Conduct. The second step is to educate members of the community to respect and tolerate the opinions and views of others. Lastly, students can now file a report of any nature through the website or go directly to Campus Security for help with any crime or incident.
To recognize these crimes as they happen, it is up to the students to familiarize themselves with the Code of Conduct and with the variations of hate crimes. Although laws vary in different states, President Obama signed a major civil rights legislation in 2010, making it a federal hate crime to assault people based on sexual orientation, gender and gender identity. The provision, called the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is attached to a defense authorization bill. It is named after Matthew Shepard, a gay college student tortured and killed in 1998, and James Byrd Jr., a black man who was chained to a pickup truck and dragged to his death the same year. Under this law, individuals found guilty can receive prison terms of up to ten years.
As for PRIDE Club, Sergent said he will press charges once the perpetrator has been identified.
For more information on the campus Code of Conduct, click the Campus Security tab on the LCCC website.
Michael McFarland contributed to this report