By Cate Carrejo
Three roommates in Finlay Hall, all members of the LGBT community victim, were sexually harassed via comment written in permanent marker on their whiteboard. The three sophomores reported to campus authority figures on Saturday that a comment had been written in permanent marker on the whiteboard attached to their door. All three residents of the room openly identify as LGBT, to which the writing made a derogatory reference. “Do you all bone each other,” the comment read.
One of the residents, who requested anonymity due to the private nature of this incident, told The Fordham Ram in an interview he returned to the room at around 3 a.m. on Saturday but did not see it until he and his roommates first opened their door later in the morning around 11:30 a.m.
“At first I thought it was someone trying to be funny, but then we realized that’s not funny, it’s awful,” said the student.
The students contacted their residence director who recorded the incident. According to the unnamed student, the university then called Public Safety, according to the students. The roommates were also assigned an administrative support person, who is trained to help the students deal with the emotional fallout from these incidents. The administration contacted NYPD on Sunday and the police determined it was not a bias crime.
The student said he appreciated the support from his resident director (RD).
“Our RD was incredibly helpful and supporting through this whole process,” he said.
Administration did not respond to The Ram’s request for comment at the time this article went to print.
UPDATE: The following university-wide email was sent to the community from Public Safety early Wednesday morning:
On Saturday, September 3, 2016, residents of Finlay Hall found what was likely an anti-gay message written on the white board of their door. Residential Life staff notified Public Safety, which began an investigation, and notified the NYPD.
Though the NYPD has determined that the message does not constitute a bias crime, Fordham Public Safety is continuing the investigation and staff are proceeding according to the bias incident and CARE/Title IX incident policies in the Student Handbook which strictly prohibit this kind of conduct. Since Saturday, staff from Public Safety and Residential Life have met with the students who appear to be the target of the message; those staffers and the Dean of Students have also been in touch with student government and other student leaders. Anyone with knowledge of the incident should contact Public Safety at (718) 817-2222, and ask to speak to a Duty Supervisor, or contact the Dean of Students: (718) 817-4755.
The behavior in question, regardless of intent, falls far below the standard for any university, much less a Jesuit university. The University takes such offenses very seriously, and if identified and found responsible, the person or persons who left the graffiti will face severe Fordham disciplinary sanctions.
The student noticed that last year the university’s responses to numerous racial bias incidents included community wide emails sent by the university president, but a similar email was not sent out about his harassment incident.
“[My roommates and I] were freaking out about that, like is the school going to do anything about it,” the student said. The student also cited the email sent to the university community from the Office of the President immediately following that incident last year, and said he and his roommates emailed the president’s office and have not received a response as of Tuesday, Sept. 6. “He’s the president of the university and he did the same thing for both the bias incidents last year,” the student said. It was a heartfelt letter to the students that it happened to and to everyone saying ‘this is not Fordham, and we have not received that from him,” the student said.
The President of Fordham PRIDE Alliance Cameron Gallagher said the school’s response to the incident was supportive.
“I don’t speak for our entire club, but personally I felt that their appropriate response calmed a lot of my nerves and worries that day,” Gallagher said.
“They’re of course still handling the incident and looking for the perpetrator(s). PRIDE’s priorities following something scary like this are to change our community to one that is accepting and loving and to advocate for and carry out the wishes of the victimized students. In this case, the latter included publicizing the event and contacting administration on their behalf.”
Other university institutions have also responded to the incident. Finlay Hall is holding mandatory floor meetings about the incident and did not allow sign ins for several days following the incident. The presidents of Campus Activities Board, Residence Hall Association, Commuter Students Association and United Student Government are coordinating on programming.
“We are working together to create programs that will promote an inclusive community and celebrate diversity on campus,” said Stephen Esposito, FCRH ’17, president of CAB.
The student said he realizes this incident is not representative of the Fordham community as a whole, but wants acknowledgement from the president’s office. To the student, an email from Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university, represents a personal level of support that would be helpful and appreciated. He said he believes that an email is forthcoming. “I think this week, it will be taken care of, I hope. We’ll soon see,” the student said. “Basically we’re just waiting on that email. I have faith in them.”
This article appears differently in print to reflect the statement from Public Safety sent on Wednesday morning.