In 2011, there was one on-campus intimidation incident and one vandalism incident characterized by sexual orientation bias. In 2013, there was another on-campus vandalism incident that was also characterized by sexual orientation bias. These crimes are all recorded by UCSC’s Clery Act Report, which will have another report of an incident characterized by sexual orientation bias in 2015.
A community crime bulletin emailed to students on Feb. 11 stated that an altercation at Kresge College was being investigated as a hate crime. It was later known that the victim of the altercation was allegedly attacked because of their sexuality. After the incident occurred, Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway sent an email asking students to “ join [her] in condemning this violence” and provided websites and phone numbers for resources on campus. This was the only response we have seen from administration.
While an email serves as a reminder for community guidelines and regulations, it does very little to protect communities that are afraid to walk around on campus or to broaden the campus’s understanding and tolerance of diversity.
Kresge students organized “Strength Through Solidarity,” which featured speakers from campus resource centers who offered support. Unfortunately, this was the only active response carried out by administration and the responsibility for creating a safe space for all students has unjustly fallen on the shoulders of students and of resource centers that are already underfunded.
A group of students known as the “Students for Action” created an online petition that has garnered over 2,000 supporters, requesting that the administration take action against the crime that occurred on campus.
The petition includes a list of demands, including funding for gender-neutral bathrooms and the implementation of self-defense workshops and trainings on queer, trans* and gender non-conforming life, terminology and issues. The petition also calls for the hiring of multiple queer specialists, one of whom must be a trans specialist who would focus on the implementation and enforcement of the aforementioned demands.
While the petition is supported by many community members and has received considerable attention from major news outlets, the lack of action from the administration is concerning.
The authors of the petition requested gender-neutral bathrooms, citing students’ fear of being attacked when entering a restroom or their dorm rooms. Late last year, the Cantú Queer Center took these concerns into consideration as it began to facilitate the conversion of single-stall bathrooms into gender-neutral bathrooms. Despite lacking a central funding body, the Cantú was able to convert bathrooms with the help of donations, while a few colleges assisted financially too. While the conversions are a UC-wide measure, the administration did not follow through.
Students for Action also outlined a need for free self-defense workshops. Though a self-defense class is offered every quarter through the Office of Physical Education, Recreation and Sports (OPERS), the class requires a $10 fee, limiting its accessibility to students. The class is offered every quarter and is taught by instructors who were trained in January, which shows that it wasn’t a direct response to the incident being investigated as a hate crime. The university also said it will offer additional classes but that these classes will only initially be offered to women. UCSC’s News and Media Relations Director Scott Hernandez-Jason said that the classes will be taught by sworn officers and professional UCSC staff, which could make students hoping to take the classes uncomfortable.
According to a report published by the Women’s All Points Bulletin, 22 percent of transgender people indicated “that they were harassed, physically assaulted, or sexually assaulted by officers.” While a self-defense class would be helpful, having the police department facilitate a class for a community that has been systemically targeted by police is a major cause for concern.
The Students for Action are also asking for trainings, educational seminars and the hiring of queer and trans specialists. All of these are viable ways to provide support for the queer, trans and gender non-conforming community. These additions can also kickstart a culture shift that no longer excludes those who do not fit in the confines of “traditional” ideas of sexuality by taking their safety concerns seriously.
The few responses from the university are not enough. Administrators should be doing more, not as a response to a single hate crime, but to create a safer environment for all people who attend UCSC. The obligation to create a safe campus should not be left to students who already carry a heavy load with schoolwork, but should instead be the duty of the administrators, whose job it is to keep students safe.
*Trans is an umbrella term used for individuals who do not identify within the gender binary.