Why you should rethink your activism

Editor’s Note: Cleveland State University (CSU) President Ronald Berkman issued a follow-up statement to the one discussed in this letter on Oct. 17 expressing his personal outrage over the flier, and CSU’s commitment to promoting a safe and inclusive environment.

On Monday, Oct. 16, LGBTQ students at Cleveland State University (CSU) were made painstakingly aware of how some members of their campus felt about them. They were encouraged to kill themselves and “follow [their] fellow [slur]s.” That same day, the president of CSU sent out a statement claiming that this hate speech was a protected right. That is cause for outrage.

Late on Wednesday, Oct. 18, the president of Case Western Reserve University had not yet responded to the incident. Accordingly, a petition was sent out “demanding condemnation” of both the event and the inaction by the president of CSU. Come the next day, when President Barbara R. Snyder’s response was published in The Daily, comments I witnessed admonished her for not acting sooner or condemning the president of CSU. Others congratulated the organizations who created this petition.

I consider myself an activist. I have protested in the streets and spoken out for change. I have caught flies with honey and with vinegar when I needed to (though the honey is often more effective). I have stood with my fellow students when there was injustice, and I continue to do so. Those who doubt me on these things are not those I have met while striving for change. Where I differ from the opinions of many of my close friends on this campus is here: Your outrage is outrageous.

In my research at the University Archives I have looked at the past of this university, specifically for LGBT and Black students. I have read about violence and slurs and profound injustice and hate. I was dumbfounded. Not because I haven’t witnessed these things in this day and age, but because these were things that took place here. A large amount of the positive cultural changes that made this seem so outlandish started in 2007, when President Snyder took office.

We have many things to be outraged over. There is change to be made and protests to be had. I condemn the president of CSU for his protection of hate speech. There is no excuse for his inaction. This incident, however, does not turn my ire towards our president, who not only spoke out against an incident that did not directly involve this campus, but has been praised time and time again for her commitment to diversity. You can scoff at these awards, but know that there are few institutions that so freely search for ways to improve, and consult their students in doing so.

I came to this university in 2015 from a small town in South Texas. I lived in a single room for fear of what might happen if I had a homophobic roommate. The administration headed by President Snyder made me feel welcomed here. Diversity 360 changed my life and let me know that I was not only safe, but loved here. Realize that our administration wants to do better. Demand better of them, but realize that the people running this university are not your enemies.

Stop treating them like they are.

Cameron Childers

Class of 2019