Dear Kutztown students, professors, professionals, and community,
I was raised in a home where we learned not to judge those different from us, and to love rather than hate. I always try to be the best person I can be, while respecting others beliefs, even if they might go against mine. I grew up learning of individuals who chose to judge those for being who they are, arguing and protesting rather than simply trying to have educational talks. I always felt conflicted in what I would do if I was to ever be put in that situation. Sadly, I recently came across two individuals who I would categorize with those traits.
I am a firm believer in using my voice for those who cannot speak up. I mean, I have an equal sign tattooed on me for a reason. Within the past two weeks, I heard fellow classmates mention Christian worshipers spreading hate on our campus. Thankfully (and luckily) I did not have to walk by the building they chose to stand outside of. Unfortunately, this was not the same luck others had. News of this event only reached me on Friday afternoon when my snapchat was filled with stories of two men fighting with students. I went to my Women Writers Around the World class, where other students informed me of what was occurring. I was baffled and confused as to why these men decided to come to a campus where we allow those to be who they are. I quickly became irritated the more I heard, as well as stories being passed on.
I decided to use my voice. I used my voice that day, as well as the days after this event. My wonderful, educated, professor (Shout out to Dr. Clemens) helped many students who felt targeted, disrespected, and angered by this display of hate. I sent a statement of what occurred while I was there, and what I witnessed all in one hour to the task force, which is on campus to provide safety for students. The task force’s main focus is to stand by students, which is made up of facility members. Included is my email:
Dear Dr. Clemens,
I am writing to you about what occurred on Friday. I am disgusted, frustrated, and simply confused. I empathized with those who have been deeply affected by these words of hatred that were spread. Here is my insight.
On Friday, after my Women Writers Around the World, I decided to head over to the Academic Forum to see what was going on that everyone was speaking about. I am not one that looks for arguments, but when I hear things of hatred being spread, I feel I need to stand up for what I believe in. When I got over there, there were two men arguing with students over their beliefs. The one man began reading the bible, but also pointed out students who identified as gay or trans that they will be going to Hell. He tried backing up his words by saying how “he loved us” yet we would still be going to Hell. My friend began to ask questions like “Are you God?” and “How do you know?” She was clearly getting frustrated at his ignorance and started to curse saying, “Are you F**king God?” Once the man heard her using explicit words, he said she was a disgrace to females. I opened my mouth and said, “I am a female and there’s no problem with females cursing.” I was then told I was not a female by this man. Never in my 20 years of living have I ever had someone tell me I am not the gender I identify as. I simply laughed back and said, “I have the body parts to tell me so.” These men continued to mis-gender individuals who would also correct them on what pronouns to use. They went so far as to ignore those and disrespect them. I had also overheard from several students there that they also tried to tell a student to kill himself since he identified as gay. From what was explained, they tried to say he was basically a “waste of space” and would be going to Hell anyways. They also showed photos of premature babies, but tried to relate it with their “pro- life” and “anti-abortion” talks. Students were screaming, telling them to leave, but they continued. They tried saying they knew we “all identified as pro-life” although we had chanted “pro-choice” before that. My other friend yelled over them and said that although she is a Catholic, they were not spreading any truth about God and his words. There were two security guards there who watched all of this happen/be said, but couldn’t do anything since it is their first amendment. Eventually I had to leave, dragging my friend with me, fearing we would be chastised. I could no longer continue to listen to the chaos that was going on.
I am all for everyone having equal rights, as well as being able to express their beliefs. But when it begins to target students, as well as calling them out for who they are, I cannot stand with that. I feel that Kutztown failed in protecting their students Friday. We cannot continue to send emails condoning acts of hatred, yet allow individuals to stand on our campus, telling those they are going to hell. I know this has been going on for years, but I am asking for a change: for this to end. Students want to come to Kutztown University to expand their knowledge and grow as individuals. College students are at their most vulnerable state: figuring out who they are, what they want in life, and beginning a new chapter in the book of life. These students should not fear they will have to be told to go to hell or be told to kill themselves. Kutztown is a family. This family needs to stand up for one another, especially in times of hatred. I hope I get to witness a change during my time on this campus. This needs to stop now.
You might be asking, why can’t you just ignore it? Why can’t you just walk by and not listen? While this might be an option for others, I choose to not be silence. I cannot keep my voice quiet for those who already fight for their acceptance. I choose to use my voice as a power against hatred. While I will respect their beliefs, I will not allow any person to denounce another individual who is trying to live their life peacefully. It’s more than just equality. It’s the right to love, the right to receive an education, the right to live freely, the right to be who you choose to be without being judged for it, the right to have equal opportunity, the right to be treated fairly regardless of gender, age, sexuality, religion, and everything in between. It’s the right to be a person.
So, I leave this to you Kutztown. You can continue to send emails to create a new initiative called “Walk on By,” but I will be the first student to say this will not work. You cannot expect students to be silent in moments where our voices need to be heard the loudest. You cannot tell us to close our ears when we witness our family, friends, or even ourselves struggling just to be who we are so I won’t just “walk on by.”