University of Louisville faculty and students are outraged after the school’s tepid reaction to the threatening actions of an anti-LGBTQ student.
The student, whose name has not been released, visited an LGBTQ studies course that he was not taking and disrupted it by passing out anti-gay pamphlets.
“Perhaps you believe you are gay, or maybe you are sympathetic toward homosexuality and you think that what people do sexually is their own business,” said the 36-page pamphlet, entitled “God & Sexuality” and published by Living Waters Publications.
The pamphlet described a woman who was locked in a train car and then saved at the last minute before her train collided with another train. “Whatever the case, I want to convince you that you are sitting in a car on a railroad track with a train coming, and you don’t know it.”
Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies as well as Pan-African Studies Kaila Story, who was teaching the class, reported the incident to the heads of her departments, who then reported it to school administrators.
Ricky Jones, the Pan-African Studies Department Chair, spoke with the Louisville Courier Journal about his anger after the university found the student’s actions violated no school rules. He was even told he could return to the class if he gave 48 hours’ notice to Student Affairs.
“I want to be clear, we do not believe this is a free speech issue.” Jones said, “I believe it is an issue of hate speech and harassment.”
Story said, “This kind of disregard and dismissive attitude by the Dean of Students Office when it comes to concern of student and faculty safety is not and will not be tolerated by me or my students. It’s blatant disregard.”
In response to this inaction, students are planning a protest this afternoon.
Jones also wrote his own scathing op-ed for the Courier Journal condemning the toxic culture of the school for marginalized communities. He described his experience reporting this incident, writing that “One Student Affairs administrator, lips dripping with arrogance, dismissiveness, and condescension, asked me and the professor’s other department chair what did we see as ‘threatening’ about this student’s behavior?”
“Another said he intended to meet with the offending student (at the student’s convenience) to ascertain his intent — as if his intent was not clear. It was one of the most disturbing meetings I’ve attended in my nearly 24 years at the school.”
Jones went on to say that the same administrator – the one who asked what was threatening about the man who entered a class he was not taking and distributed anti-gay pamphlets – concluded the student was “stable” after meeting with him and learning he was married and owned a home.
“This is a mind-blowing approach in an age of rampant campus shootings nationwide by people with the same profile as this student,” he wrote. “The latest happened at Texas A&M-Commerce on the same day as our meeting with Student Affairs.”
Students in the class told the Courier-Journal that they felt extremely troubled after the pamphlets were distributed.
“It’s distressing to know that an individual went out of his way to target a specific group and invalidate their existence,” said student Charlotte Haydon. “And to have that happen and not have university staff even blink an eye…. We don’t feel safe.”
Another student, Kaelan Strom, said it is unacceptable for anti-LGBTQ discrimination to compromise her education. “I should not be afraid to learn my history. I should not be afraid to attend a class. I should not be afraid that things may escalate.”
The university is also being called out for its hypocrisy, as it has been repeatedly praised for its LGBTQ-inclusive culture. In June, it was even ranked one of the most LGBTQ-friendly college campuses in Kentucky.
In his op-ed, Jones insisted this was all optics, and that the university is an unsafe place for many marginalized groups.
“Make no mistake, U of L is a fear factory,” he wrote. “Countless people speak in shadows about marginalization but will not do so in the open because of fear of reprisals. An argument can be made that they are simply cowards, but they are clearly afraid.”
The Courier Journal explained that the University of Louisville follows the Campus Free Speech Act, which was enacted in 2019 by the Kentucky legislature.
The act states that students can distribute written material without approval if they are not disrupting university operations or breaking university rules.
“Administrators are militaristically wedded to interpretations of university policies and state laws that literally put lives at risk,” Jones wrote. “If the law and university policies allow this behavior, someone needs to endeavor to change them.”
Jones made it clear he is one of those people who will fight for change.
“Make no mistake,” he warned, “That, while many are afraid, others of us are not and will fight back.”