To the Editor:
I write a week after the word “fag” was found marked into a student’s door in Brooks. I’d like to make a few observations about the impact of that marking and about the campus response.
First, a number of people have said that this incident wasn’t a big deal because nobody was hurt. I disagree. Many people were hurt. The student who was targeted by the homophobic language marked into his door – a student who is a member of the LGBTQ community – had a part of his identity threatened and dismissed. He was certainly hurt a great deal. Many other LGBTQ students, staff and faculty, as well as others who do not identify as LGBTQ, were made to feel less welcome and less safe here as a result of this act. They were hurt as well.
Second, I’ve heard it said that this incident wasn’t important because this sort of thing happens all the time. Again, I disagree. The fact that something happens often doesn’t make it unimportant, although it may make it more likely that we dismiss it.
One of the things I most hope for Williams is that students, staff and faculty would feel deeply welcomed here in every respect – that people would find they could comfortably bring their whole selves to Williams. When an event happens that targets, violates, negates, threatens or dismisses a fundamental part of a student’s identity, something crucial is broken in our community. And every time that happens, it is important and it is a big deal.
I am very grateful for all the support that many have shown this week to those most affected by last Sunday’s incident. As always, many have risen up to care for and stand up for one another and to work to better this place. That reaction is part of the best of Williams. Now – at the end of a hard year – I call on the community to stand in solidarity with one another. As November’s hate crime and the conversations that followed it made clear, Williams has a long way to come to strengthen the daily experience of welcome for many in our community. That journey is one we must continue to make, together.
– Sarah Bolton
Dean of the College