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|Anti-gay slur, racial threat prompt Berry College students to renew efforts for LGBT group|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|April 17, 2012 14:50|
A petition for Berry College in Rome, Ga., to recognize an official LGBT organization on campus is gaining steam after a student received a note that included an anti-gay threat and racial slur.
On March 26, a student returned to his dorm room and found a note saying "faggot nigger fuck off," as well as liquid bleach poured into his two top dresser drawers, according to the college's campus newspaper, The Carrier.
In an interview, the student told The Carrier, "Racially, it's upsetting that someone hates me for who I am. Sexually, it's upsetting that someone hates me for who they think I am."
The March 26 incident, however, has sparked a renewed interested in organizing an official LGBT organization on campus.
The petition calls on Berry faculty, staff, alumni and current students to make LISTEN an official student organization. LISTEN, begun in the fall of 2003 by a small group of straight students, was intended to bring straight and LGBT students together and to provide resources to LGBT students.
According to the petition, "On March 26th, 2012, a hate crime on campus was accompanied by a note stating 'faggot nigger fuck off.' There has been discourse on campus about the repulsive racial slur, as there should. However, there has been too little about the homophobic slur, which could in part be attributed to the fact that there is not a school-sanctioned, official LGBT group on campus. This petition is to call all Berry Faculty/Staff/Alums, current students and others to action to let our voices be heard … we are here to say that the time has come for LISTEN to be an official organization."
While LISTEN was approved by the Student Life Council and then-President Scott Colley in 2004, the college's board of trustees reversed the decision and denied the organization official club status because they felt it was an advocacy group for LGBT people.
Berry College participates in Chick-fil-A's Christian WinShape program, a program that contributes to anti-gay groups. Some of the students in a part of the program were involved in an alleged exorcism in 2009.
Despite the school's past, an anonymous Berry College student is now seeking signatures and support to mandate that college officials officially recognize an LGBT group on campus.
"Currently, the Dean of Students office has been offering some limited support for GLBT students and their allies. Students have been able to reserve meeting places on campus, have meetings/events occasionally announced campus-wide through that office, and receive limited funding for educational programs," the petition states.
"The Dean of Students office has also supported a 'Safe Spaces' training program for interested faculty and staff. However, the name 'Listen' is not permitted to be used in announcing any of these activities and the group is discouraged from organizing itself – electing officers, developing the Constitution, etc., and any funds provided are at the discretion of the office and do not equal those of other 'official' student organizations," the petition also states.
Photo: Berry College gate. (via www.berry.edu)
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