A Year after Yik-Yak: Campus Community Responds to LLC Hate Speech

Warning: This article contains homophobic language written on the walls of the PRIDE Living Learning Communities (LLC).

Before Fall Break, Colorado College was struck by hate acts targeting two LLCs. The PRIDE LLC and the Revitalizing Nations LLC, both in Slocum, woke to vandalism in their living spaces.

In the PRIDE LLC, the perpetrator(s) wrote “Fuck Fags” “Die Trannies” and “#TrumpAmerica” on the bathroom walls. In the Revitalizing Nations LLC, bulletin boards were defaced with pro-Trump messages.

The hate crimes fell near the anniversary of the Yik-Yak posts that rattled the campus in November 2015. While the hate graffiti has received much less national press, it represents yet another instance of marginalization of minority groups on campus. “There are no degrees of this type of offense,” said Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies Professor Michael Sawyer. “There is no ‘little-bit’ bigoted… I think this is something in the same line as the Yik-Yak situation.”

Attendees of the rally stood in silence outside of Worner, making eye-contact with those who passed. Photo by Daniel Sarché
Attendees of the rally stood in silence outside of Worner, making eye-contact with those who passed. Photo by Daniel Sarché

The responses to the graffiti in the LLCs differed from the Yik-Yak response. Following Yik-Yak, there was an all-campus assembly and the issue permeated almost every part of campus. In contrast, much of the immediate response to the graffiti centered on the affected students in Slocum Hall. While some criticized the amount of time it took college administration to send a campus-wide email (the first campus-wide email was not sent until four days after the incident), most found that the response was appropriately focused on affected residents in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

“I think in any kind of crisis like this there is always that tension between an immediate reaction and the need to collect information,” said Professor Sawyer. “I am not uncomfortable with the four-day period [between the incident and  the campus-wide email].”

Slocum held a mandatory meeting attended by over 200 people, and residents who were not in attendance were mandated to speak with their Resident Advisor. Slocum will continue to have community dialogues during Block 4. Dr. Paul Buckley, Director of the Butler Center, stressed being able to prioritize types of responses. “Think about response differently,” he said. “An all-campus email is a very narrow response… The people impacted are primary in the response.”

In addition to official college responses, there has been significant student planning of events and protests regarding the vandalism.

Student Body President Annika Kastetter sent an email on Nov. 17 condemning the acts of hate and imploring members of the campus community to hold themselves and their peers to the highest standards.

Students embrace in a show of support and solidarity. Photo by Daniel Sarché
Students embrace in a show of support and solidarity. Photo by Daniel Sarché

A rally was held on Worner quad the Monday following the weekend graffiti attacks. Although the original intention of the rally did not specifically stem from the incidents, it served as a gathering to reaffirm the ideals of inclusion and to celebrate the identities of students on campus. Among many other speakers, President Tiefenthaler spoke of the college’s continuing commitment to supporting and recognizing marginalized communities.

Support also came from outside the current campus community. Twelve CC alumni who had lived in PRIDE (formerly the Gender and Sexuality LLC) wrote an open letter to the PRIDE LLC that offered support. The letter also included a commitment to fundraise for InsideOut Colorado Springs, a “safe space in Colorado Springs for LGBTQIA youths.”

Following Fall Break on First Monday of Block 4, over 100 people, both students and professors, gathered outside Worner to protest the silencing of marginalized groups on campus.

Aracely Navarro, in an email to Butler Heads of State groups, said “Our message is simple, that we refuse to be silenced, we refuse to be afraid, and we stand together to hold those accountable who dare to threaten our community and its member’s safety and wellbeing.”

The Facebook group Project Voice was the main organizing medium. It laid out two main goals. First, “to demonstrate that the attempts to scare, intimidate, silence, and dehumanize” have not and will not succeed. Second, to express “deep concern that members of our community remain at risk.”

The crowd stood in silence for about 10 minutes, making eye contact with people streaming in and out of Worner. Some maintenance staff walked up and asked if the fire alarm had gone off and if that was the reason so many people were standing outside.

After about 10 minutes, one of the organizers, sophomore John Henry Williams, pulled out a megaphone. While Williams characterized the silence as “uncomfortable,” he hoped that the “silence was as uncomfortable for people walking by as it was for us.” 

The hate crimes have shown that CC still has much work to do in creating an inclusive campus. Project Voice said that one of the goals of the protest was “to end the illusion that the people outside of CC are the only people we need to have conversations with, because there is darkness here on our campus that needs to be confronted as well.”

During and especially following the results of the presidential election, much of the media focused on the deep divides in the U.S. Pundits pointed to the “social media bubble” that prevented each side from understanding the other. In post-election reflections on the Democratic side, it was widely agreed that the left had insufficiently reached out to white, lower-class voters.

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Photo by Daniel Sarché

While the need to reach across party, class, and racial lines gained newfound momentum, the acts of hate on CC’s campus demonstrated or reaffirmed to many that the same work needs to be done in the campus’ smaller concentric circles. “It is very important to look internally before or even while dealing with external forces,” said Dr. Buckley.

As the recovery continues, the perpetrators will be much harder to catch than they were in the Yik-Yak incident. But that may have beneficial impacts on the overall recovery. “Let’s create an environment where that person begins to think differently about their behavior outside of the context of direct punishment,” said Professor Sawyer. “Catching somebody allows for societal order to pretend as if it’s anomalous, when this is a broad structure that we have to deal with. It’s systemic. In some ways it’s almost productive to not have an individual to pin this on because then it becomes only about them.”

The hate acts at CC are part of a trend of increased hate crimes across the U.S. both in the recent weeks and in the past year. According to the FBI, hate crimes were up almost seven percent in 2015. That includes a 67 percent jump in crimes against Muslims.

Incidents in the past year at a multitude of institutions, from the University of Missouri to the University of North Dakota, demonstrate that places of higher education are far from exempt from acts of hate. President Jill Tiefenthaler, in a letter to members of the campus community, wrote “at a liberal arts college, we can and should disagree on a wide range of issues but bigotry and hatred cannot be part of our intellectual community.”

If you have knowledge of the hate crime incident contact Campus Safety at 303-389-6707.

Ethan Greenberg

Ethan Greenberg

Ethan Greenberg

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