At the beginning of the semester, students received an email from Dean Johnson that discussed the “numerous” reports of homophobic and racist incidents that students brought forth throughout the fall semester. 

Wedged in between a chili recipe and COVID-19 protocols, a section of the email sent on Jan. 19 reads, “I spent time during the break reflecting on the fall semester. I imagine many of you did the same. Something that was brought to my attention numerous times during the fall were multiple incidents of inappropriate racial and homophobic language being used cavalierly by students across campus.” 

The email continues, “Equally disheartening were the number of students who stood by idly while their peers acted in this manner, as others were hurt or made to feel uncomfortable due to these actions. This type of behavior is the antithesis of what we strive to be as a campus community, and clearly goes against our mission and values.”

Homophobic and racist incidents are a part of Fairfield University’s campus culture; as the removal of a Black Lives Matter flag from the Counseling and Psychological Services Office sparked outrage, insensitive comments posted on Fizz after a Black Stags Matter walk targeted students of color and an anti-LGBTQ+ anonymous note left in Donnarumma Hall attacked sexuality studies. 

Fairfield University Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) questions the increase in homophobia and racism on campus: “Did it increase or was it always there?” 

The club’s statement continues, “being part of the LGBTQ+ community at Fairfield University is a unique experience. Oftentimes many of the members have at least one homophobic experience on campus.”

“One member explained how they and their friends were called some slurs out of a window. This was a similar experience to another GSA member as well,” the group adds. 

A first-year student, who was granted anonymity due to the sensitive nature of this article, describes incidents in which she has been referred to by inappropriate names by fellow students.

“The other day I was called Pocahontas,” she states. Another time she was called “Sacagawea.” Although she believes the comments were intended to be humorous, they still made her feel uncomfortable. 

Dean Johnson offers resources and services in an attempt to reduce homophobic and racist incidents on campus. 

“Our Step Up Stags initiative has stressed the importance of taking action and not being a bystander. I understand the desire many people have ‘to not get involved’, however, sharing what you have witnessed with a Residence Life Staff member, Public Safety, or submitting a report via LiveSafe will allow you to keep yourself from getting too involved, share the occurrence with the appropriate people, and increase the likelihood of action being taken against those who harm our community. Stepping up is the right thing to do!” the email reads. 

In addition to Dean Johnson’s suggestions, long-term services are offered through the Office of Counseling and Psychological Services.

Moreover, The Office of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (SMDA) offers programming throughout the spring semester to provide awareness. The Women’s Basketball Pride Awareness Game will be on Feb. 24. Additionally, the office will be sponsoring Campus Pride in the Quad on April 14 and Lavender Graduation on April 7.

In response to Dean Johnson’s email, GSA confirms that submitting reports is a “good starting point.” But they question its efficiency, asking, “in actuality how many students are self-reporting?”

Even with a multitude of resources and services offered to students, many believe it is not enough and will not enact change. Fairfield GSA notes that even though initiatives like Step Up Stags are beneficial in acknowledging the issue of homophobia and racism on campus, “it is merely addressing the basics of a very complex issue.”  

In a survey conducted via text message, The Mirror asked 15 participants for their reactions to Dean Johnson’s email. All of them declined to comment.

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