STRONG COMMENT After a writer for the campus paper was allegedly assaulted, students, faculty, and administrators at Bridgewater State marched against bigotry on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, less than a week after a lesbian undergraduate was allegedly assaulted on campus, around 400 students, faculty, and community members marched at Bridgewater State University in support of LGBT students.
Earlier this month, a 20-year-old student named Destinie Mogg-Barkalow wrote an editorial in the college newspaper against California's Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage in that state. Mogg-Barkalow told the Boston Globe that on Thursday she was walking through a parking lot on the way to the Bridgewater Comment offices when a tall man and a red-haired woman approached her, asking if she had written the piece. When she said yes, the woman allegedly punched her in the eye.
News spread quickly through BSU's tight-knit LGBT community.
"I found out about it through about 20 people via text," said senior Michael Nelson, president of Aware, a student-run group that focuses on LGBT issues. "When I found out who [the alleged victim] was, it made me angry. She's my friend, and she didn't deserve this."
After he got over the shock, Nelson felt the need to take action: "Everyone just was like, 'We need to do something.' " His friends were very upset and eager to show their support, he says.
But they're not scared. "The only person who's worried is my mom," said Nelson, "but she's always worried."
Although the Comment originally reported that the assault was being investigated as a hate crime, this turned out not to be the case.
"Nobody from the university ever categorized this as a hate crime," said university spokesperson Bryan Baldwin. "That distinction is applied by the prosecutor, who in this case is the attorney general. We're not prosecutors." However, he said, "I don't want to suggest that what happened was anything less than reprehensible."
"I can't recall anything like this happening on our campus," said Lee Forest, the director of BSU's GLBTA Pride Center — the nerve center for the march's organizers. "But once the students processed what had happened, they were on to social justice. They were the ones who took the lead. We started working on the march on Friday afternoon, and by Friday at 5 pm, the students got approval."
And so on Tuesday morning, after an Occupy-style mic check, marchers bearing fluorescent STOP THE HATE signs made their way across campus to the steps of Boyden Hall, the school's administrative building. Speakers — students, faculty, alumni, local clergy, BSU president Dana Mohler-Faria, and Mogg-Barkalow's father, a BSU political-science professor — made speeches, read poems, said prayers, and sang John Lennon songs.
But Mogg-Barkalow was nowhere to be seen.
"She's here at the march, but she's hiding in the crowd," explained Brianna St. Jean, Mogg-Barkalow's colleague at the Comment. "She doesn't want it to be about her."
Caitlin Angelo, the Comment's opinion editor, has never seen such a reaction to anything in her section — the only article that's come close was a profile of a student who had an abortion.
"We expected comments on our Facebook page and letters to the editor, but not this," she said. "But we're going to keep writing about the stuff that's important."