By Charlie Smart
The art gallery in the University of Connecticut Student Union was once again vandalized on Tuesday when a derogatory word for a gay individual was found written on an interactive exhibit. This is the second recent incident of anti-LGBTQ vandalism in the Union Gallery following last month’s homophobic defacing of Rachelle Lee Smith’s traveling photo essay Speaking Out: Queer Youth in Focus.
The most recent vandalism was done on an exhibit sponsored by the UConn Mixed Heritage Program. Adam Walsh, coordinator of the Mixed Heritage Program, explained that the program, “reached out to local artists” and that artists were free to contribute whatever kind of work they felt best represented themselves.
The exhibit features a blank board which encourages students to write about what mixed heritage means to them. “One student wrote ‘it’s being comfortable with who I am and not what other people perceive me to be,” said Walsh. “Below that another student called them a fag.”
According to the Student Union front desk, the gallery is currently subject to a police investigation, however UConn police were not available for comment.
This recent vandalism was discovered during UConn Speak OUT, an event aimed to combat hate on campus. According to the event’s Facebook page, it was organized in direct response to the previous vandalism of Rachelle Lee Smith’s work. It is still unclear whether the recent incident was in response to this rally.
Varun Khattar, a student organizer of UConn Speak OUT and one of the first on scene at the recent vandalism discussed the possibility of a link, saying that he thinks it is, “too much of a coincidence,” that the incident occurred during the rally.
Katie Edelman, also a Speak OUT organizer, said she’s not convinced that the recent vandalism is related to the Speak OUT rally but that the incident is nonetheless significant.
She said that, “its an unfortunate reminder that hate speech is just thrown around…even in situations where it isn’t relevant.”
Regardless of the motivation behind the vandalism, both Khattar and Edelman believe that campus culture must change in the future. Khattar looks for change to come from the student body. He said that he is bothered by what he perceives to be a sense of apathy among the student body towards events like this and thinks that the campus must have an honest dialogue about its culture.
Edelman said that she thinks the administration should also be more involved.
Many of the students interviewed agreed on one thing: security cameras should be installed in the art gallery. Still though, the idea of this disappointed Walsh. He said, “it is a shame that we are all adults and there needs to be that kind of security measure.”