EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) – Following several tragic incidents of anti-gay bullying nationwide, the president of Northwestern University says harassment will not be tolerated on the Evanston campus.
The statement comes after several cases of harassment across the country led to at least nine suicides of young men and women.
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The letter emphasized the university’s values of civility and respect and stated that “harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated at Northwestern University.”
The letter, signed by Northwestern President Morton Schapiro and Vice President of Student Affairs William Banis, referred to the “number of horrific incidents involving young gay men and women across the country in recent weeks,” notably “the tragic situation at Rutgers University in which a student took his life after reportedly being bullied and having his privacy violated by fellow students.”
The Rutgers student, Tyler Clementi, 18, jumped off the George Washington Bridge between New York and New Jersey, after his roommate and another student broadcast video on the Internet of him having sex with another man.
Additionally, last weekend, “we were deeply saddened to learn about the anti-gay violence that occurred in New York,” where 11 men have so far been arrested for an attack on a gay man, his brother and two teenage boys.
The letter said that “civility and respect … are more than just expectations” at Northwestern; “they are expressions of our core values. Northwestern is a remarkable place, one that attracts a truly diverse group of students, faculty and staff. As such, it is important to recognize that members of the University community may hold differing opinions on a variety of subjects, but we hope and expect that those opinions will be expressed with civility and respect. Harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated at Northwestern University.”
According to the Washington State-based Safe Schools Coalition, almost a quarter of students who have been harassed or attacked at school because someone perceived them to be gay or lesbian report having attempted suicide in the past year – more than three times the rate their peers report (23.2 percent to 7.1 percent).
Schapiro’s letter urges any LGBT members of Northwestern’ community who have been the victim of discrimination or harassment, or believe that someone else at Northwestern has been, to contact the school’s LGBT Resource Center, the Sexual Harassment Prevention Office or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access. Counseling and Psychological Services on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses are available to provide additional support and assistance.
“Northwestern strives to be an open, inclusive and welcoming community,” the letter said. “Achieving that requires the active engagement and participation of all of our members. As we note with concern and sympathy the tragedies that have occurred elsewhere, we ask that you join us in preventing similar incidents here and in creating a caring and inclusive Northwestern community.”
Also in response to the recent suicides and bullying incidents, several local LGBT community members turned out earlier this month for a group video-making session for sex advice columnist and Chicago native Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project. Savage started the project as a means for gay adults to remind teenagers that no matter how alone and isolated they feel, life will get better down the line.
Savage himself was present as 25 local LGBT people and families recorded video messages for the project at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., the Windy City Times reported.
Hundreds of people also joined in a vigil at DePaul University earlier this month to remember the bullying and suicide victims.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report..