Oct. 30, 2017

Letter to the Editor

Faculty Senate comments on university's official response

October 19, 2017

I am an associate professor of English at Cleveland State and I serve as vice president of Faculty Senate — though I should also say I’m speaking only for myself here and on behalf of the leadership of Faculty Senate. I did not see the virulently anti-LGBT posters that appeared in Main Classroom the week of October 9th, but I did see them reproduced in social media and in email chains afterward. Several students in a class I am currently teaching on US LGBT Literatures have included me in conversations about these posters and the awful ways they have made queer people on this campus and in this city feel in response to them. If you do not already know the awful truth, these posters advocated for the mass suicides of queer and trans peoples, as a figure on the poster appeared to hang from a noose, surrounded by statistics on bi, LGBT, and trans suicides.

Though our campus has experienced racist, misogynist, anti-Muslim, and anti-Semitic speech and incidents before, these posters were, to my knowledge, the first such anti-LGBT hate speech to occur on our campus in the twelve years that I have worked here as a gay male faculty member. I can honestly say in those twelve years I have never felt threatened or unsafe at CSU for being queer, and though I can understand my brothers, sisters, and others, who have been expressing their fears and angers about these posters, I still believe we and all of our allies remain completely safe on this campus.

All that has happened is that one or two ignorant, hateful people posted public signs of their ignorance. They don’t know the strides this campus has been taking toward inclusiveness along lines of gender, race, religion, sexuality, and sexual orientation. They do not know of the array of student clubs, support services, and sensitive, “woke” faculty that are in place. They do not deserve for us to take them seriously because they do not know our campus and our queer communities. Do not let them scare anyone or intimi-date any of us with their mis-information about LGBTs or about CSU.

Speaking for the leadership of the Senate only, we do not accept that the posters qualify as protected or free speech. We reject any argument that calls for harm or self-harm to come to any group of my fellow American citizens. We unequivocally condemn the message conveyed by those posters.  This call, however, about free-speech rights is not mine to make, nor ours to make, and not even President Berkman’s to make. As a public institution in a democracy, CSU will often encounter the views of the moderates and the extremes around us. We will always have the chance to respond to their speech, if we respond conscientiously, protestingly, but peaceably —as we ask them to respond to ours, in turn. As our President defends his initial acceptance of these posters as free speech, as other groups and demonstrators come to appear on our campus, and as the television news cameras roll, let us not keep the anger and fear these posters have caused alive by harboring them, and let us not further hurt CSU’s reputation in the Cleveland community.  Let us not dignify the messages of the hate mongers and uni-formed extremists by shining our light on them and continuing to give them publicity.  CSU is better than that. We are better than that. We reject these posters’ calls for deaths, and we strive instead for greater lives — for ourselves, our campus, and our safe, accepting, tolerant community of Cleveland State University.

Adam Sonstegard
Faculty Senate Vice President
With the  support of Faculty Senate officers William Bowen and Vicki Gallagher

 


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Letter to the Editor: Faculty Senate comments on university's official response


 
 
 

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