Letter to the Editor

Lily Perkins, Class of 2019

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After my first few weeks of attending John Carroll University, I was certain I made a mistake. I had been nervous about accepting an offer from a Catholic university, but did so after talking with some alumni who assured me I could support Jesuit values. Once I arrived on campus, I regretted letting myself be convinced that I, a queer person, would feel welcome on John Carroll’s campus. That is, until I saw a sign for the annual drag show. I attended that drag show and found the Dolan atrium full of other LGBTQ+ students and allies. I proceeded to scream with delight as I watched each queen twirl, drop, and vogue across the stage. I have never felt more at home here on this campus than on that night. 

Unfortunately the drag show is only one night of the year—an exception. JCU on the whole does not provide the kind of comfort to its LGBTQ+ students that the drag show does. Whiteboards in library study rooms with slurs written on them, overheard conversations between students using “gay” or “f*ggot” as a derogative, and a general climate of apathy, if not hostility, regarding the comfort of LGBTQ+ students. Gender-neutral bathrooms must be hunted down, Chick-fil-A, a company known to be hostile to LGBTQ+ people, is served in the basement of the Administration building, and only within the last six years under constant pressure has the JCU administration seriously entertained the demand to amend their equal employment policy to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Most of these things don’t demonstrate hatred, necessarily, but rather a disregard for the safety and comfort of LGBTQ+ students. Over the last few years I have accepted this, only complaining to fellow LGBTQ+ students and known allies. That is, until today. I picked up the September 20th issue of The Carroll News (TCN) to read actual hate speech written by Declan Leary. Not only does he refer to activities of my community and me as “heathenry,” “heresy,” and “sexual deviance,” he also calls for “purging this place of the evils which have invaded it.” 

How could this opinion be published? Thankfully, editor-in-chief Olivia Shackleton answered this question in the Septmeber 27th edition of TCN. In it, she cites First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and press, as well as the value of generating dialogue as reasons why Leary’s declarations should not simply be tolerated, but embraced as an example of American democracy at work. What Shackleton misses here is that TCN choosing not to publish hateful opinions is not a violation of anyone’s first amendment right. Even if this was an issue of rights, that does not obligate TCN to publish anything and everything put forward for submission, especially something that calls for action that is both vaguely threatening and also potentially illegal. After all, although the New York Times and Wall Street Journal operate under freedom of the press, the publications are not obligated to hire as an op-ed writer any specific persons. They can, and do, make decisions about whom they hire to write op-eds. TCN should act similarly.

As far as the generation of dialogue is concerned, dialogue is not in and of itself productive. My identity is not up for debate or discussion. My existence on this campus as a queer student should not be a hot-button issue TCN should deploy in order to excite its readers. Some dialogue is not only unproductive, but actually damaging. Like Shackleton says herself in “Write and Send It” on September 20th, “these letters do have influence.” This is exactly why hate speech, including Leary’s, should not be published by any news organization with integrity.