Late Tuesday evening into early Wednesday, an incident took place off-campus at the University Village apartments. Various students allegedly witnessed a male student being harassed and physically assaulted by another student sometime around 12:30 a.m.
Kristopher Hawkins, a junior psychology and music major, and president of RockOUT, recounted his experience with the incident.
Hawkins reported hearing shouting outside his window at the University Village and looked outside, observing a student being kicked and injured by another and hearing the attacker screaming “fucking faggot!” The student being attacked ran off, but the man continued screaming.
“They’d been drinking. That was obvious because you could see the beer cans by the fire pit” Hawkins said.
He called 911 to report the situation and get help. “When I called 911, I asked the dispatcher to talk to the Slippery Rock Borough Police, but I was forwarded to the state police. I told them that the situation had calmed itself down and that the victim went home. I told them that they should send someone just to make sure that the situation was resolved. The dispatcher told me that without the victim calling then there isn’t anything they could do.”
Hawkins added that the dispatcher did say they would still pass the information on to an officer.
As for University Village security, Hawkins said, “I heard that several residents had called state police and they had received even more calls in the security office.” He said that approximately fifteen minutes after making his call, the security showed up and said, “You guys need to clear off. The state police have already been alerted!”
Junior public relations major, Taylor Schrecengost, 21, was one student that called University Village security.
“It sounded like fun yelling at first, but then it was more like screaming.” Schrecengost explained, adding, “they were all just kidding around, but then it got really rough.” Schrecengost attempted to get the boys to stop, but was met with a response from one of the boys she quoted as saying, “Mind your own fucking business you little bitch!” Schrecengost then called security and urged them to get on the scene.
She agreed with Hawkins that security seemed to shrug off the incident.
The University Village could not be reached for comment.
Campus police were not involved as the incident took place off campus. “This incidence would have been a lot different if it happened on campus,” Hawkins said, though expressing frustration that “if several people called the state police this is not some small incident. I don’t know if the man is okay.” Terry Fedokovitz, Chief of Police for the Slippery Rock Borough Police Department, explained that the University Village falls under jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania State Police.
The Pennsylvania State Police cannot respond to a crime if there is no victim present; the victim was reported to have left so no response was taken.
Dr. Tom Flynn, chair of the communications department and member of the Presidents Commission for Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation, found this inexcusable.
“I find it enormously disturbing that it is apparently the policy of state police not to investigate unless the victim is present and the one calling,” said Flynn, who cited scenarios in which a victim would not be able to call the police after an attack. He adds, “It seems incredibly short sighted and irresponsible.”
In regards to responses at the time of the issue, Flynn observed, “It seemed like everyone in a position of power took a ‘boys will be boys’ attitude on this issue…they did not treat it with the seriousness it deserves.” He added that this behavior perpetuates an environment in which gay and lesbian students feel “psychologically intimidated and physically threatened.”
“This has to stop,” Flynn said.
The identity and sexual orientation of the victim is unknown; however, Hawkins felt that the issue became relevant to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Allies (LGBTQIA) community with regards to the response of the attacker. “Based on his reactions and hearing him go on and on, [calling the victim a “faggot”] that’s when it became about LGBTQIA for me.” As president of RockOUT, a group on campus that educates and advocates for LGBTQIA, Hawkins plans to raise awareness about the incident and have the group send letters to the University Village about the incident. “I think the lack of response [in general] is detestable” Hawkins said. He wants everyone to know “it happened, and it’s not welcome here.”
Dr. Flynn agreed with Hawkin’s feelings on the issue. Flynn felt that the actions of the perpetrator need addressed, saying, “what matters is the response and the actions of the perpetrator who perceived the other student to be gay.”
Dr. Cindy LaCom, director of the Women’s Studies program, noted the language used as an example of “fag discourse.” LaCom stated, “according to gender theorist C.J. Pascoe, ‘faggot’ is the worst thing a man can be called.”
She says she would love to see a campaign to “End the F-word” come into full bloom next fall.
LaCom also explained, “in the case of an alleged assault, it is important that the University acknowledge it…it is an opportunity to contribute to a conversation on the issues.” She was recently emailed by the University Village about speaking to the residents in an effort to create a safer place for students both on campus and off. She feels it is important to include the University Village and off campus apartments in the conversation with the University for a diverse and respectful campus.
Hawkins admitted, “This isn’t specifically [about] LGBT.” However, given the “bigotry” he witnessed, Hawkins said, “Maybe we should reevaluate the way we approach diversity…my institution has failed me if someone has the same, or more bigotry than they came here with.”
For students interested in learning more or becoming involved with the LGBTQIA presence at Slippery Rock University, stop in the Pride Center in the Robert M. Smith Student Center. The Pride Center serves as a safe zone for students and has access to books and other resources regarding sexuality.
RockOUT presents students with the opportunity for personal growth and education regarding sexual identity and to extend an opportunity for social interaction among members of the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community and others. It seeks to enhance the relationships between gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-, and other communities and the Slippery Rock University community.
The Presidents Commission for Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation is also an active group in promoting education and advocacy for students.