Students criticize W&L admin. in wake of reported attacks
Openly gay W&L law students report abuse; one alleges physical assault
Cait Speaker and Kacie Varriale, Cavalier Daily Senior Writers
Recent reports of attacks on two openly gay law students at Washington & Lee University, one of whom is a University graduate, have resulted in criticism of Washington & Lee's response to the incident.
Diane Meier, a second-year Washington & Lee law student and one of the openly gay students who said she was verbally and physically abused, described attacks against a fellow law student, who has chosen to remain anonymous.
Meier said last Saturday her friend was walking home from a party where he had been verbally attacked. He heard footsteps behind him and as he was turning around, a male jumped him from behind, putting him in a chokehold and bringing him to the ground.
The student was able to escape unharmed, Meier said.
Meier said she was verbally abused at the same party Saturday night, where Washington & Lee students also threw food at her while yelling slanderous statements.
Meier said administrators were "unresponsive" when first approached by the two students about the incident.
Dawn Watkins, Washington & Lee dean of student affairs, declined to comment on the matter; however, she said Washington & Lee students can report crimes through the university's student conduct system or can receive assistance from the administration in the legal process.
"In my experience, Washington & Lee is a great place to be," Watkins said.
Meier said from her perspective, her experience at Washington & Lee has not been as positive.
"There are only five [openly] gay kids here and we all feel really unsafe," Meier said.
These reported incidents at Washington & Lee have raised concerns among the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community at the University of Virginia.
Wyatt Fore, third year College student and president of Queer and Allied Activism, said members of his organization discussed this incident in particular at a meeting last night.
"We aren't going to let this pass by," Fore said in an interview. "Statewide leaders, including [leaders at] the University need to take a positive stand against this."
Cate Dundon -- second-year University Law student and president of Lambda Law Alliance, an LGBT group at the University's Law School -- recommended at last night's meeting that QuAA encourage LGBT student groups in law schools nationwide to send messages to Washington & Lee's administration, urging it to respond to the incidents.
In an interview, Dundon said because this incident occurred at a law school in the Commonwealth, it gives all Commonwealth universities a bad name.
"We are hoping for some action at their law school," she said. "This can be ameliorated and this can stop happening."
Dundon added that the University's stance is entirely different from Washington & Lee's.
"Our administration is much more helpful in situations [and] seems to be very complacent," she said.
The University administration takes reports of assaults in the University community very seriously, according to Dean of Students Penny Rue.
"Any report of a student that was [physically] attacked at the University would result in a police investigation," Rue added.
One way for University students to report a personal attack is to access Just Report It!, a Web site where students can submit reports to the Office of the Dean of Students, Rue said.
Rue also said when students report incidents, University officials are alerted.
There is a "dean on call to follow up directly," she said.
Rue recommended students who need immediate assistance call the police, adding that Just Report It! "is not a substitute for calling the police in the event of a crime."
Fore noted, however, that some victims are reluctant to report crimes to anyone.
"If someone is closeted or they are uncomfortable letting people know [they are gay], they won't go to the police," Fore said.
According to Fore, this issue needs to be addressed at the University.
"I could see something like this happening at U.Va. tomorrow," Fore said.
Bill Harvey, vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity, echoed Fore's concern.
"I think as long as you have people who are intolerant in any environment those incidents could happen at any time," he said. http://www.cavalierdaily.com/CVArticle.asp?ID=29897&pid=1571