April 2006 News
Forum on anti-gay chalkings challenges MTU officials' leadership
By Paula McCambridge
HOUGHTON -- Michigan Tech community members -- faculty, staff and students --
pushed facilitator rules beyond their limits Wednesday night, Apr. 19, as they expressed their opinions at a public forum created to discuss hate crimes that
occurred on campus two weeks ago.
Three facilitators told the crowd of about 70 people that the forum would be a safe place for any comments
attendees wanted to express. The facilitators then listed rules: there would be time limits; speakers would hold a
microphone and “speaking stone”; and no speech would be allowed in the form of questions. That didn’t set
well with some.
Tears flowed and voices rose as speakers shunned those rules in favor of taking their time to speak in both
questions and statements about the chalked hate messages targeting Michigan Tech’s
GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) community that were
scrawled on sidewalks across the university April 7.
“I am completely opposed to there being a time limit on this, so I will take my time,” one student said as he
listed his concerns. “There has been an incredible lack of communication by the university…what happened this past
week is nothing new,” and for the administration to have said nothing, “not a word, that’s wrong…that needs to be
Early this week Michigan Tech students attempted to counter the anti-gay
chalkings by writing positive messages in chalk on campus sidewalks. "Students were making efforts to show that (the anti-gay messages) wouldn't be
tolerated," said Shannon Healy. This cheerful drawing bears the message of
a popular Reggae tune: "Don't Worry, Be Happy." The new messages
included love, tolerance, inspirational quotes and positive events, such as,
"I turned in my thesis and got a new bike ..." (Photo © 2006 and
courtesy Shannon Healy. Reprinted
Others expressed sympathy toward university administrators who, they said, “may have been
blindsided” by the
Michigan Tech Vice President of Student Affairs Les Cook said, “We very intentionally tried to [keep the campus safe].”
Still others emphasized what they described as a lack of action from the school’s leadership concerning minority
issues in general.
“We cannot have diversity until we define what diversity is,” said one student. “There is nothing diverse about
Michigan Tech. You cannot educate what you do not know.”
One student read from a letter Keweenaw Pride wrote to Michigan Tech President Glenn Mroz
and then presented a hardcopy of the letter directly to Mroz, who stood and accepted it with a handshake.
In the letter, Keweenaw Pride offered possible solutions to Michigan Tech’s lack of diversity sensitivity,
including the request that “as part of freshman orientation, a guarantee is issued that any language or behavior
that threatens the safety of identifiable groups on campus…is grounds for expulsion and possible legal action.”
Mroz wound up the evening’s discussion with a statement of his own, saying that the crime was possibly a “push-back
crime” because of his work making diversity a top issue on campus. “I think when you return to Michigan Tech in the
fall, you’ll see a different place…but it’s not going to be like lighting a candle, and suddenly there’s light.”
The forum, which lasted more than two hours, was preceded by community action that started with a gathering of
about 50 people who met in an administration-building parking lot to walk, in unison, to the forum by way of
College Avenue to bring visibility to the issue.
Notes from Wednesday's forum will be available in Dean of Students Gloria Melton's office in the
Michigan Tech Administration Building. Students and the public have been asked to contact MTU Public Safety at 487-2216 with
any information on who might have done these chalkings. Public Safety is conducting a full investigation of the
incident. A reward is being offered for information.
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