‘This was preventable’: CWU student arrested, facing student conduct after stealing Pride flag and lighting it on fire

%27This+was+preventable%27%3A+CWU+student+arrested%2C+facing+student+conduct+after+stealing+Pride+flag+and+lighting+it+on+fire

A CWU student has been arrested after stealing an LGTBQ Pride flag from the SURC and setting it on fire, CWU Police confirmed. The incident took place his week and was captured on social media. CWU’s Diversity and Equity Center displayed the flag earlier in the month to commemorate LGBTQ Pride Month.

As of Saturday afternoon, an online petition calling for consequences of “removal of scholarship money, suspension or expulsion” has more than 2,600 signatures.

In a June 10 Facebook post, CWU Police said they had arrested a suspect and gave credit to tips from the campus community.

“We take these crimes very seriously and will not rest until a corrective outcome is achieved,” the Facebook post says. “This is another example of how we depend on the support and trust of our community to achieve a safe and secure learning environment.”

 

UNIVERSITY RESPONSE

An email signed by President A. James Wohlpart, Provost Michelle DenBeste and Vice President of Diversity Equity and Inclusion Delores Cleary to the campus on Thursday afternoon described the incident as an “appalling act of hate.”

“We are greatly disturbed that our CWU LGTBQ+ community had to endure this violation of their identity; this act diminished all of us,” the email reads. “This is especially true during Pride month when many LGTBQ+ CWU students, faculty and staff celebrate and memorialize their communities and commemorate the Stonewall Riots. We will not tolerate these types of actions that reduce the identity of others, make them feel unwelcome, and decrease their sense of safety and belonging.”

According to the email, CWU is developing a plan with LGBTQ students, staff and faculty to “determine how best to renew the commitment to ensuring a sense of belonging and safety for all of our students but particularly those from marginalized communities.”

“We understand that no action we can take will erase the trauma of this event,” the email reads. “While we can and we do commit to addressing this issue and others in ways that protect LGTBQ+ Wildcats, we must do more to ensure that all members of our LGTBQ+ community feel welcomed, celebrated, and supported.”

 

CAMPUS COMMUNITY RESPONSE:

By Thursday afternoon several signs of support for the LGBTQ community hung in the SURC. Signs criticising CWU administration and its handling of the incident were also displayed.

“THIS WAS PREVENTABLE,” one of them read. “It will not stop with a joke post, or a slur, or with a FLAG. How long until someone is attacked? Assaulted? Killed?”

The sign goes on to reference CWU’s claim to be among the most diverse schools and says the university should “put our money where your mouth is.”

CWU has been named one of the top schools for increasing diversity on campus in six of the last seven years by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

Additionally, several messages of support were written in chalk outside of the SURC.

“HOMOPHOBIA WILL NOT BE TOLERATED,” one message read.

NEXT STEPS:

According to university officials, the student will go through the student conduct process and an investigation remains ongoing with the police department. As of June 10, a new pride flag has been displayed in the SURC.

The Observer is working on this as a developing story, which means the information may adapt or change as new information becomes available.