At the recent forum to discuss the concern over Victoria Cobb receiving the award from Jepson, a fellow student said something to the effect of, "These comments come from the students' sadness; we don't feel safe here."
This got me thinking that I really don't feel safe here. I repeat: As a student at the University of Richmond, I do not feel welcome, respected or safe at all. How could this be, with that wonderful Richmond Promise we all love to talk about? My identities as a "black," "gay," "male," "UR student" are all protected and "included" on paper, but yet I am silenced daily by this university, the administration and my fellow students. Silencing is wrong, oppressive, and can be detrimental to one's mental health/stability and overall well-being. I am included and protected on paper, but where is the action, where is my protection!?
Cobb receiving the Jepson School of Leadership Studies' 10th Reunion Recognition Award is atrocious on many grounds, but mainly because this now means that Jepson and UR sponsor and endorse, and worst of all, have enhanced, this woman's work. What do Victoria Cobb and The Family Foundation do? They actively work to remove groups like SASD from schools/universities, among many other oppressive initiatives.
This quote is directly from their Web site: "Homosexual advocates are working through school curricula and student groups such as 'Gay-Straight Alliances' to bring their message to children in Virginia. Legislation is needed to bar these groups from promoting risky sexual behavior in our public schools."
It is important to note that one-third of all attempted teen suicides are attempted by LGBTQ teens and the highest cause of death among LGBTQ teens is suicide. Silence is one of the main reasons these numbers are so high; silence = death. Cobb and her organization insist on the silencing of these individuals, and therefore insist on the death of these individuals. She serves as the starting point in creating a silencing and unwelcoming community, in which LGBTQ individuals are led to suicide. This woman and her organization, and now UR (by virtue of this award), all deny me the right to live, my existence, and "the pursuit of happiness" which was promised to all Americans in that wonderful document those people wrote when they "founded" our great country.
This is yet another instance that UR has silenced the LGBT community, an instance that could have been avoided. Jepson didn't have to give her the award, but they did; somewhere, someday, in some meeting room a group of people decided to honor this woman. Because of this, the Jepson School and the University of Richmond have silenced and oppressed LGBTQ individuals, all while acting with no regard as to how this would make the LGBT community feel, no regard for our lives. This mistake is unacceptable, especially for a school that loves to throw around lackluster "promises" and the word "inclusivity."
The community is so hurt because this instance of bias, hatred and silencing could have been avoided. I can't stress enough the fact that HATE COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED! There have been other instances of bias, hate and silencing this year, but for the most part they were incited by bone-headed students, not the administration.
I was personally a victim of a hate crime this year; my passenger-side window was shattered by a group of five fraternity boys screaming, "Fuck this faggot ass car." The wonderful UR police refuse to consider it a hate crime, and thus no punishments have been delivered, no repercussions. What else is new? My property was purposely targeted and destroyed because of my sexual orientation; that is a hate crime. Period.
Although my victimization is unfortunate, I understand why there wasn't a mass outrage, forum or other student response, the reason being that the hate was incited by silly students, not faculty, administration or a top-ranked leadership school. The Cobb incident was incited by these people the students look to for guidance and support. We, as LGBTQ students and allies, no longer feel supported or protected at this university. When the administration begins to act as the enforcer of SILENCE, we have a problem. Richmond, we have a problem!
Some people think we have blown this "out of proportion," but this whole hoorah could have been avoided had the lives of LGBT people been considered before Jepson awarded this woman that is to gays what Hitler was to Jews, and what the KKK is to blacks. Yes, I just compared her to Hitler and the KKK. The Family Foundation feels that they are constructing a "good, traditional family," but they simultaneously destroy the hopes, dreams and legal possibility for me, or any GLBT people, to have a family (who is to say what is "tradition"?) or basic human rights.
If I learned anything from that poorly advertised, half-ass, on-a-limb forum yesterday, it is this: A disproportionate number of UR students are outraged by the award and its recipient, outraged at the University and administration. But worst of all, we do not feel safe or supported here. Lastly, I made a statement at the forum that I will make again: "If I wasn't on a scholarship, I would pack my belongings and go to another school because UR has proved time and time again that I am NOT welcome here."
Thank you, Richmond, because forums solve everything.
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