Elson S. Floyd, Ph.D. - 10/22/08
Universities must be welcoming places. People with different beliefs and interests, people of different ethnicities and sexual orientations, people who grew up around here and people who grew up on the other side of the world – they all come together on a college campus. And they build a community dedicated to learning.
That feeling of community is precious to us. It is integral to what we, as a university, can accomplish. We must be willing to defend it.
Today, some members of our community feel threatened as a result of several assaults that have occurred in recent days on and around campus. The most recent came on Monday evening, when a person in the Center for Undergraduate Education parking lot was assaulted by someone who expressed bias against members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.
WSU and Pullman police are also investigating two other assaults, which appear to be bias-related, that have happened in the past week.
To say such assaults are an outrage is, of course, to state the obvious. Any criminal assault should be punished. However, when there is evidence that people are being targeted simply for being who they are, our sense of outrage is heightened. We feel great compassion for the individual victims. At the same time, the sense of safety and of community that we all value is threatened.
We must not be a community that merely “tolerates” diversity or “accepts” diversity, but a community that celebrates the diversity of its members. We learn from people with different points of view and life experiences. When any segment of our population is targeted, is marginalized, is silenced, we all are the poorer for it.
So I ask you to reach out to those fellow students who feel threatened by these recent assaults. Offer them aid and comfort, a friendly smile or a helping hand. Take care of one another.
Also, anyone with any information regarding these crimes, please contact the police departments of Washington State University or the city of Pullman. The best outcome would be to have the perpetrators of these acts quickly arrested and prosecuted.
Even though our campus remains a safe place, it is clearly not immune from the elements of intolerance and hatred that too often plague the larger society.
We are not immune, but we should be steadfast. This is our community. We won’t be divided.