FREE SPEECH ZONE | Augsburg College’s LGBT community “stands up” to end recent acts of discrimination

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 Throughout the week, students across Augsburg’s campus have been arming themselves with suits of rainbow-colored clothing. But for members and allies of the LGBT community, these choices in wardrobe aren’t merely an experiment in fashion.

According to a Crime Alert issued by John Pack, Director of Augsburg’s Department of Public Safety (DPS), an Augsburg student and the student’s friend were physically assaulted in Mortensen Tower’s north parking lot on Sunday, Sept. 26 at approximately 4:45am for their perceived sexual orientation. As of Wednesday, Sept. 29, the attackers have yet to be identified, but a report was immediately filed by the Minneapolis Police Department following the assault and DPS has since continued their investigation by reviewing surveillance records.

“I know that all of us are dismayed by these disrespectful acts,” President Paul Pribbenow commented in a campus-wide email. “They do not reflect the sort of community we all value at Augsburg.”

Taylor Foster, a junior student and member of the LGBT community, was outraged by the assaults. After collaborating with Fia Goldfine, Commissioner of Augsburg’s Queer and Straight in Unity (QSU) organization, Foster came up with the idea to retaliate by organizing a non-violent protest against acts of discriminatory violence on campus.

“We had to do something big,” she said.

Foster created a Facebook page titled “Stand Up Against Hate” that urged students to don a specific color of the rainbow for every day of the week, starting with red on Monday. And after seeing the virtual seas of rainbow-colored clothing on Augsburg’s campus and witnessing the Facebook membership grow to over 600 participants within three days, it is clear that Foster’s protest to show solidarity has been a successful one and the LGBT community has support from its student body.

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“If only about 10 or 15 people from our friend group would have done it, I would have been happy,” Foster said. “But to see our campus covered in red was incredible.”

Vice President of Student Affairs, Ann Garvey, said that the assaults were an added concern for the LGBT community as many campus residence halls reported anti-gay vandalism within the past few months.

When addressing discriminatory attacks on the Augsburg community, Garvey explained that the college works earnestly to respond to all parties involved. “This means that we have to first address the victim; then we can move to the person’s roommates; then we can talk to the community of the residence hall; and then we can move further to address the entire campus,” she said.

Mike Grewe, Augsburg’s Coordinator of LGBTQIA Services, reported feeling sad and frustrated regarding the assaults; however, Grewe’s primary concern is making sure that the students involved feel supported and that the necessary courses of action are being taken to remedy the situation.

Grewe plans to focus his future efforts on further educating the campus about LGBT issues. He plans to raise LGBT visibility on campus through more programming which he hopes will dispel stereotypes about the community and stimulate discussion about gender and sexuality.

Another aspect of Grewe’s plan to support the LGBT campus community is through institutional change. “When you create a climate that’s welcoming and inclusive for LGBTQIA people, you’re also creating a more welcoming and inclusive environment for folk who don’t identify that way,” Grewe said.

For those students affected by the assaults, Augsburg offers many systems of support including the Center for Counseling and Health Promotion (612 330-1707), LGBTQIA Services (612 330-1499), and Campus Ministry (612 330-1732). If students or members of the community have concerns for their safety or any information regarding the attacks that would prove useful in the investigation, they are urged to call DPS at 612 330-1717.