I, like many of you, am sad, frustrated, and hurt by recent homophobic and sexist jokes made by a member of our community. These comments, even if made in jest, and even if meant to be kept in private, are hurtful and damaging to our community here at the University of Richmond. As a queer person and as a feminist, I am hurt and offended. I see my friends, colleagues, students, alumni, and community partners struggling to overcome the pain these jokes inflict on us. For many of us, these now public jokes and comments are just the latest in often daily homophobia and sexism directed at us and our communities.
I am struggling. I struggle to reconcile these comments from a high-ranking official in our community and the amazing progress the University of Richmond has made in regards to LGBTQ Campus Life. I joined the Spider Family in July 2012, holding the first associate director for LGBTQ Campus Life position. We’ve built a strong vibrant community of love, support, and celebration of LGBTQ people. We can see this in our over 500 Safe Zone Allies, our Icebreakers support group, and our programs like UR Comes Out and Lavender Graduation. We can see this in the work of the Student Alliance for Sexual Diversity, the Equality Alliance, our Q-Community, our USAC LGBTQ Affinity Group for Faculty/Staff, and our LGBTQ Spiders Alumni Group. We can see this in our fully inclusive non-discrimination policy, which includes protections for sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. We can see this in our Office of Alumni & Career Services’ A+ Gold Certificate from Out for Work; our LGBTQ Health Initiatives from URWell; our Sexuality & Spirituality discussions with CAPS, Common Ground, and the Chaplaincy; and our hosting of the first ever Campus Pride College Sports Summit where UR Athletics, Common Ground, Recreation & Wellness, and the Division of Student Development engaged in a community conversation on how to create a more inclusive sports culture in our region.
We’ve also built a strong vibrant community for women on our campus. We can see this in our nationally recognized WILL* program, where students engage in explorations of gender and diversity both inside and outside the classroom. We can see this in our new Department of Justice grant focused on ending sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking, all of which disproportionately affect women. We can see this in Westhampton College initiatives like the Connecting Women of Color Conference, or Multicultural Affairs’ women’s group, and Richmond College’s dedication to ending violence against women with the White Ribbon and It Ends Now campaigns. We can see this in the work of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and their new endowed chair position. And we can see this as Westhampton College celebrates it centennial next year, reminding us that the University of Richmond is dedicated to women’s education, women’s leadership, and centering women’s voices in our community.
While our pain and anger in this moment cannot erase all of our hard work, neither can we afford to ignore that anger and pain.
This is my personal story and personal reaction. I invite our community to engage with me in this conversation on Tuesday, February 25th 7:30pm-10:00pm in the Alice Haynes Room. The purpose of this conversation is to engage thoughtfully in a transparent dialogue of community building. I invite you to bring your stories, your reactions, and add your voice to this discussion. Let’s come together as a community and air our frustrations, seek amends together, and begin to heal.
Remember that you are loved and valued.
In love and solidarity…