Last week, a visiting student to our campus named John Mateer was assaulted for being gay. It got some attention on twitter (though much of this attention was from students of other schools and not just Penn State), though we did not get any sort of email from the school, and we have a single already-outdated Onward State article as our source of information concerning the assault.
In Pennsylvania, members of the LGBTQ+ community are not a protected demographic, and they are not considered victims of hate crime if they are assaulted for their sexuality or gender classification. Consequently, Mateer’s assault is more or less considered a non-issue in the eyes of the law.
Onward State handled the assault in just about the worst possible way:
A Tweet from Mateer, who is not a Penn State student, says he was assaulted by a member of a fraternity (keep reading, though) and included photos after the alleged assault.
First of all, who cares if he’s a Penn State student? He was assaulted visiting us, and he’s certainly deserving of the same respect afforded to any of us. The “keep reading, though” part was the real kicker. Yes, thank you, Onward State, for informing me that I should read more than the first independent clause of a periodical to understand the story, or is that your way of trying to cast doubt on him? Also, the word “alleged” implies that there isn’t conclusive evidence of the assault, however, the perpetrator has already been identified, and you’re shamelessly framing your language to make us overly sceptical of a man who very clearly has been the victim of a violent crime.
This isn’t just an Onward State problem though, as this seems more like a “dropped ball” as opposed to a fundamental flaw in an otherwise responsible periodical. The fact that this isn’t being pointed out so that Onward State and its writers can be more informed on the dangers of wording reveals more about us and our community.
Why has the conversation stopped?
Why did this assault only matter for two or three days?
This assault should go down in Penn State history as the moment our students joined together to change the state legislation to be more protective of oppressed and targeted groups, and when we broke our strong stigma of queer students. Instead, it has revealed a fundamental flaw in the character of our student body.
Penn State has been heralded as an LGBTQ+ friendly school. Why? Because of that one tiny center in Bouke that has maybe 20 regular members out of thousands of queer students and allies at this school? I’m very scared to hear what the schools that ranked BELOW us are like. We will never be worthy of that distinction until we proactively destroy the stigma surrounding our LGBTQ+ classmates, friends, and family.
Because we need to do much better, Penn State.