Conference participants subjected to hateful comments
compiled by Q-Notes staff
RALEIGH — In its July 25 issue, the Independent Weekly reported that 20 youth activists, ages 13-26 from across the U.S., gathered at North Carolina State University (NCSU) from July 4-8 to participate in the Campaign to End AIDS Youth Action Institute. They voiced their concern over homophobic comments made while in attendance.
During the Institute, participants were schooled on AIDS advocacy as well as attracting media attention and lobbying politicians. The education did not stop there, as intolerance was learned first-hand through some NCSU students.
According to the Weekly, 23-year-old Brett Calka from Chicago, Ill., an Institute participant, was sitting outside the dorm where his group was residing for the week, minding his “own business,” when he heard someone from another building screaming out derogatory comments such as “faggot” and “sissy.” Because the blinds were drawn, he could not identify the perpatrator.
Some of the attendees were openly gay, others were not. They felt that the abuse came from the stigma that AIDS is a “gay diesease.”
Organizer Charles Long said that the South has a growing number of new HIV infections, coupled with a general lack of support organizations. That was why NCSU was chosen to host the conference. He found it surprising to be subjected to the negative reception by some of NCSU’s students on a college campus. He felt that college was a time to embrace new concepts and expand thinking instead of ignorance.
Other participants experienced resistance when they attempted to explain the Institute’s purpose. They were also subjected to abusive remarks across the campus. A 20-year-old from Miami, Quintanta Lane, infected with HIV since birth, worked to educate a couple of students with whom she had had an unfavorable encounter. She said that after she explained why the group was at NCSU, the students said they did not want AIDS and HIV brought to their community, followed by saying that they did not like gays either. Her attempts were not successful in educating the abusers.
Seventheenth ranked in the Princeton Review category of “Alternative Lifestyles Not An Alternative,” NCSU is struggling to establish an LGBT-issues tolerant campus. Duke University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill each have LGBT campus centers. NCSU has lagged in creating one itself.
The University Diversity Advisory Committee last year identified the need for the center and drafted a proposal to the administration, campus government, students and staff. The center would be a hub for LGBT activities as well as the catalyst for educating NCSU’s census. It was approved by the faculty senate, but found challenges in the student senate. It eventually won out even over the objections of 14 dissenters.
When news reached the campus via NCSU’s The Technician, outrage was expressed by the student body prompting a town hall meeting discussion. The meeting was “one of the most hateful events I’ve ever been to,” said Assistant Director of Diversity for the College of Natural Resources Celeste Richie. She said it was a battle between the LGBT community and those quoting from the Bible.
Dissenters started a Facebook group to challenge the center’s creation. At press time there were over 1,000 members, as opposed to the 568 on the Facebook group for proponents. Ongoing debates were posted.
Vice Provost for Diversity and African-American Affairs Jose Picart said that he felt that diversity was supported by a majority. Other administrative staff felt that the center would help to dispell homophobia on campus by altering the university climate.
Funding for the center is still to be decided as well as its creation.