Leafleter Attacks LGBTQ Studies Class, University Belatedly Bans Him from Class

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday February 14, 2020

At first, administrators at the University of Louisville in Kentucky seemed to think it was no big deal that a student who was not part of an "LGBT Studies" course came into the classroom to hand out homophobic leaflets that purported to be Christian and seemingly insinuated that being gay - or even being inclined to let LGBTQ people live their own lives, free from religiously-driven persecution - was akin to being in imminent physical danger.

But after an outcry from students and faculty, the school has now reversed course: Whereas administrators originally told the interloper (unidentified in media reports) that he could intrude on the class again if he first gave 48 hour's notice, now the university has issued a "no contact" order that will, in theory, prevent a similar episode for the foreseeable future, reports local newspaper the Courier Journal.

The move was hailed as good news by students, some of whom described feeling "harassed" by the leafleter.

As reported here at EDGE earlier this month, students at the public university said they felt "unsafe" after a student entered the class - which he had not signed up to take, himself - and distributed an anti-gay tract titled "God & Sexuality" ostensibly written by someone called Roy Comfort.

Although students in the class were shocked by the literature, the university refrained from taking decisive action, saying that the student was within the law and had not violated school policies.

Kentucky state law gives wide latitude to those who wish to propound their "political" and "religious" beliefs on college campuses.

Students didn't buy into this, however, noting that the man who distributed the anti-LGTBQ pamphlets was reported to have "lurked" outside the classroom after attempting to distribute the anti-LGBTQ literature.

An earlier Courier Journal report described the pamphlet as being 36 pages in length. An excerpt shared in the article shows that the pamphlet denounces the idea that "what people do sexually is their own business," and compares being LGBTQ - or being supportive of LGBTQ people - as not unlike being trapped inside a car that has stalled on railroad tracks, with a train swiftly approaching.

The metaphor may be overwrought, but the pamphlet - and the fact that university staff and faculty seem powerless to stop such incursions into what ought to be a safe space for LGBTQ students - raised hackles.

Ricky Jones, who is a department chair with the university, told the media that the student's actions were inappropriate.

"I want to be clear, we do not believe this is a free speech issue," Jones told The Courier Journal (to which, the article noted, Jones has contributed opinion pieces). "I believe it is an issue of hate speech, and it is an issue of harassment."

Students agreed in a series of Facebook posts.

"Anti-LGBTQ propaganda has been left in the classroom for LGBTQ students and allies to see, and the perpetrator of this injustice has been seen lurking outside of the classroom, making both the professor and students fear for their safety," a strongly-worded post from student group Shades said.

"While faculty and staff have stood up and fought for actions to be taken, their words were met with effectively nothing. Their concerns were ignored and treated as being 'too emotional,'" the post added. "Now, students and faculty & staff will be working to bring this abhorrent situation to the resolution it SHOULD HAVE COME TO."

A student who actually signed up for the class, Kaelan Strom, gave his response to the incursion, saying that in the course of his life he had experienced "fearful interactions between hateful groups and people" since he is a sexual minority, "but when that compromises my education, I draw the line."

Said fellow student Charlotte Hayden:

"It's distressing to know that an individual went out of his way to target a specific group and invalidate their existence."

Added Hayden: "We don't feel safe."

The professor teaching the class, Dr. Kaila Story, spoke out forcefully on the matter.

"This kind of disregard and dismissive attitude by the Dean of Students office when it comes to concern of student and faculty safety is not and will not be tolerated by me or my students. It's blatant disregard," Dr. Story told the media.

The university took belated action on Feb. 13, the Courier Journal reported, with spokesperson John Karman telling the newspaper that the student in question had been given the "no contact" order.

Noted the Courier Journal:

A no-contact order is a restraining order that means a person has been instructed to not have any contact or communication with another person.

Jones took to social media to praise the about-face.

"After initially seeing it as a non-starter, the university has issued a no-contact order the student who pamphleted @DoctressStory's class," Joes tweeted. "He is not to return to the class!"

"This is all we wanted!" Jones added.

The incident at the University of Louisville was not the only recent episode of conduct that left students feeling upset. A 21-year-old student at a California university found himself under arrest and expelled from the school after launching into a tirade filled with racist and anti-LGBTQ slurs on Feb. 4.

Orange County police arrested Chapman University student Dayton Kingery after the jeremiad, which allegedly included Kingery announcing that he had been drinking. Video on social media purportedly shows footage of that incident; multiple videos reportedly show a man - seemingly a student - using racist and homophobic slurs, jabbing another young man with a finger, and then stomping on a backpack.

Kingery was taken into custody and charged with, among other things,
"elder abuse" for having "scuffled" with a "public safety officer" who was more than 65 years of age.

In that case, school officials lost no time in stepping forward to support their students and declare their commitment to a safe and inclusive educational environment. The president of Chapman University, Daniele Struppa, offered her "deepest apologies to the Black and LGBTQIA communities who were specifically targeted during today's incident," and added, "Racist and homophobic conduct will not be tolerated on this campus and we took decisive and swift action. As of this afternoon, the individual responsible for this incident is no longer a student at Chapman University."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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