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Diversity has always been a major topic of discussion on campus. The investigation of a possible hate crime against a Naropa University student on Wednesday brings this issue to the forefront, not only for Boulder but for the CU campus as well.
A 21-year-old Naropa University woman was punched and kicked in the face around 13th Street and Canyon Boulevard just before 3 a.m. Wednesday, after revealing to two men, whom she had met earlier in the night, that she was gay. She was badly injured and police are now investigating the assault as a possible hate crime.
This incident has prompted reactions from much of the student community.
“I am kind of appalled,” said Maddie Kirlin, a sophomore Italian major. “One of the coolest parts of this campus is the direct corroboration with the community. We should be supporting a community that is supporting us.”
Kirlin is also a Resident Advisor in Smith Hall. She has seen writing on doors commenting on sexual orientation or race, however she feels these incidents are isolated.
“I don’t see a problem with the campus as a whole,” Kirlin said.
Hannah Albright, a sophomore business major, was surprised something like this would happen in Boulder.
“I saw Boulder as an open community,” Albright said. “I am surprised something like this would happen.”
Karen Shimamoto, a senior MCD biology major and Student Outreach and Retention Center for Equity (SORCE) intercampus liaison, feels this event has prompted a good amount of reaction from the campus.
“We have seen a lot of reactions from students and staff,” Shimamoto said. “We are disappointed to see this happen again. A lot of students are concerned, especially women who walk around on Pearl Street.”
Steph Wilenchek, director of the Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Resource Center, has seen the impact of the incident in Boulder transcend to the campus community.
“Any time you feel an assault on a member of the GLBT community, it is an assault on all of us,” Wilenchek said.
Incidents have occurred on campus in the past involving biased-motivated incidents, and the resource centers on campus are constantly trying to bring heightened awareness of diversity to the campus community.
“We always encounter issues,” Shimamoto said. “This is not something we can fix overnight.”
Wilenchek said that the GLBT Resource Center offers a lot of programs to educate the community about diversity awareness. For example, the center offers classes to teach non-GLBT people how to support the GLBT community.
“We need a lot of help,” Wilenchek said. “Boulder and the University is a product of the views of the larger society. There is a lot of work to be done.”
If a student on campus were to be involved in a biased-motivated incident, there are many resources available to such victims on campus.
“There are advocacy groups for all underrepresented groups on campus,” said Director of the Office of Victim Assistance Mary Friedrichs.
Friedrichs would encourage anyone who felt they were the victim of a biased motivated incident, be it a crime or not, to contact any of the resource centers, such as the GLBT Resource Center, Women’s Resource Center, the Center for Multicultural Affairs, SORCE or the OVA.
“We want people to know that you can go to any (resource center) and there is no wrong door,” Friedrichs said. “(OVA) will help a student deal with the police, give them counseling and meet with different groups of people.”
For the case involving the Naropa University student, some of the resource centers are coming together to talk with impacted students on campus.
“Our students are impacted,” Friedrichs said. “We will give them a place to process their feelings and how they want to respond. Many GLBT students are worried.”
Friedrichs also noted that many times people only concentrate on putting the burden of coping with a situation on the victim.
“This is a community problem,” Friedrichs said. “Everyone needs to be doing what they can to keep underrepresented students safe.”
SORCE is planning on sending as many students as possible to a planned community march against hate crimes on Friday at 5 p.m. The march is being planned by Boulder Pride and will start in front of the Boulder Pride Community Center.
“CU students see Boulder as part of the community,” Wilenchek said. “Any student could say, ‘Wow that could have been me.’”
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Ashley Herzberger at Ashley.Herzberger@thecampuspress.com.