Santa Clara University Responds to Anti-LGBT Slurs, Swastikas

Santa Clara University experienced multiple hate crimes last month, including messages against LGBT people, incidents which have energized members of the campus community to express their solidarity and demand change.

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Student vandalizing a poster at SCU

Vandals struck the California Jesuit school twice this past October, reported campus newspaper The Santa Clara:

“Over the weekend in Casa Italiana Residence Hall, a swastika was drawn in blood in an elevator and derogatory messages aimed at the LGBTQ community were written on a fourth floor hallway bulletin board. These acts came just two weeks after the 43 Students Memorial was defaced.”

The anti-LGBT messages appeared days before National Coming Out Day, when students on campus expressed their solidarity by affixing supportive fabric signs to their backpacks and coming out on social media. But LGBT programming and a generally affirming campus environment do not preclude prejudice said some students. Alaina Boyle, a senior who directs the Santa Clara Community Action Program and is queer, told The Santa Clara:

” ‘I have experienced discrimination and words of persecution from people on our campus before. . .I’m not surprised to hear that this is how some people really feel. . .I think there’s this overarching atmosphere of it being okay to put down certain groups and to speak out about how you feel about minority groups. I think that’s normalizing the hatred.’ “

Students and several offices on campus organized a march in which 70 students, staff, faculty, and administrators participated. Marchers changed “We are one” and “Love not hate” during the witness, about which the Multicultural  Center’s director Isaac Nieblas explained to The Santa Clara:

“We want to be loud and we want to be proud and we want to showcase that regardless of the symbols of hate and undertone of racism and misogyny and bigotry that exists here on this campus. . .We are not going to stand for it and we are going to start moving forward hand and hand.”Fr. Michael Engh, SJ, the University’s president, participated in the march and explained that he was there because “it is important that the administration

Fr. Michael Engh, SJ, the University’s president, participated in the march and explained that he was there because “it is important that the administration demonstrate that all students are welcome here.” Engh said the acts had violated a “sense of home” on campus.

Administrators hosted a community forum shortly after the acts of vandalism to address students’ questions, and the Multicultural Center facilitated restorative circles to help students process the incidents.

The forum was tense, according to The Santa Clara, as students asked whether the perpetrators would remain on campus and administrators refused to give details citing confidentiality requirements and the involvement of the Santa Clara Police Department. Students also questioned why administrators had used terms like “bias incident” and “act of discrimination” instead of “hate crime” to describe the events.

A statement from 25 LGBTQ community members was subsequently released, condemning the acts and naming four demands:

“The document contains four core demands, including that the acts be called hate crimes rather than acts of discrimination and that a full description of the vandalism be released to the Santa Clara community.

“The statement also demands that the university increase the security of campus surveillance footage to prevent images of hate crimes from circulating around the university and ‘re-traumatizing’ affected communities.

“The joint statement also calls for using a ‘transformative justice’ approach in order to hold the perpetrators accountable. This would allow those affected to address the perpetrators directly.”

The topic of hate crimes targeting LGBT people and other marginalized communities is quite present in the U.S. today after the presidential election. Though these incidents at Santa Clara happened in October, the negative effects such crimes cause are harm more than just the campus community. What should not be lost is that not only tragedy occurred at Santa Clara, but solidarity from church leaders and an appeal for transformative justice by campus groups.

Clearly, the teachings of the church on justice, solidarity, and reconciliation are foremost considerations for the community at Santa Clara University. The rest of us would do well to keep these teachings at the forefront of our lives, too, in these coming months and years when it seems hate is poised to raise its ugly head.

This post is part of our “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right-hand corner of this page.

 

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 21, 2016

6 thoughts on “Santa Clara University Responds to Anti-LGBT Slurs, Swastikas

  1. Thomas November 21, 2016 / 6:52 am

    Until the Church, and that includes the USCCB, stridently stands up for the rights of everyone , to include women, all minorities, all gay people, and those who choose not to believe , no one will think the usual platitudes mean a thing. Stridently is the key here.

  2. Loretta November 21, 2016 / 7:51 am

    I am encouraged that the university president joined the march. Good sign.

  3. Wilhelm Wonka November 21, 2016 / 4:35 pm

    Why is the image of the guy in this film footage blurred?

    • Francis DeBernardo, Editor November 21, 2016 / 7:26 pm

      We don’t know why the image is blurred. That is the way we found it on the news website which originally posted the video.

  4. Wilhelm Wonka November 21, 2016 / 5:10 pm

    Good for Fr Michael Engh, S.J. ! I totally respect people who show they have courage.

  5. saddingo November 21, 2016 / 8:56 pm

    The Catholic Church really needs to address how it has encouraged this kind of hate.
    When Pope Benedict was “Cardinal Ratzinger” he wrote this nasty treatis (that was sent out everywhere as the definitive statement on the Catholic church’s teachings on gays) called, “On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.”
    It is a vile and hateful little missive that has given priests the right (and the incentive) to mistreat LGBTQ people for decades now.
    But I would bring article 10 to your attention, which states (I have put the most significant part to this conversation in caps):
    “the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and WHEN HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVITY IS CONSEQUENTLY CONDONED, OR WHEN CIVIL LEGISLATION IS INTRODUCED TO PROTECT BEHAVIOR TO WHICH NO ONE HAS ANY CONCEIVABLE RIGHT, NEITHER THE CHURCH NOR SOCIETY AT LARGE SHOULD BE SURPRISED WHEN OTHER DISTORTED NOTIONS AND PRACTICES GAIN GROUND, AND IRRATIONAL AND VIOLENT REACTIONS INCREASE.”
    Summary: So, the church doesn’t think violence towards gays is ok ..BUT on the other hand, OF COURSE LGBTQ people are being abused because we’re involved in behavior to which no one has any conceivable right.
    That is a disgusting thing to say about anyone much less people whose only crime is to love a person of the same sex.
    WHY this hasn’t been addressed and changed I don’t know. They must be aware that since the writing of the Ratzinger letter thousands of LGBTQ have been targeted by violent hateful people. Many have died at the hands of homicidal maniacs that use religion as an excuse for violence. Yes, I know gay hate crimes were happening before Ratzinger’s “article 10” but the church didn’t have this handy, dandy missive that normalized the violence towards gays. This letter all but condones the violence. It’s NORMAL as far as Ratzinger’s concerned .. The worst part is, twenty years later they made him Pope. SMH. IF the Catholic church doesn’t want to wind up as a footnote in the annals of history (and then only as notorious hate group) they really need to deal with this ongoing hate issue they have with LGBTQ people.
    I fear the violence is about to get worse in the states due to the person that was elected president .. The Catholic church would do well to remember that due to two Popes (Pius XI and Pius XII) who were not willing to openly condemn antisemitism and the mass slaughter of Jews the Catholic church is remembered as an “appeaser” to the Nazis (and I’m not saying that is justified – but it is true none the less and it’s due to the lack of vocal opposition to Hitler from the Catholic church).
    PS Hitler hated gays too and had us put in concentration camps, tortured and murdered too. Just a reminder.

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