Rally Planned Against CSU President's 'Free Speech' Statement Regarding LGBTQ Suicide Fliers

Last Thursday, a series of anti-LGBTQ fliers appeared on the Cleveland State University campus. The bills depicted a person hanging from a noose, surrounded by low-end statistics of LGBT suicide rates. At the top of the fliers: "Follow your fellow faggots."

That same day, the school opened its new LGBT Center, which will provide access to information and services for students. (October is also LGBTQ History Month.)

The general reaction was disgust, of course, but the administration chose to go a different route with its public statement. With President Ron Berkman at the helm, the school decided to insert a First Amendment clause into its official statement. "CSU also is committed to upholding the First Amendment, even with regard to controversial issues where opinion is divided. We will continue to protect free speech to ensure all voices may be heard and to promoste (sic) a civil discourse where educational growth is the desired result."

Berkman later added a second public statement to the record, calling the fliers "reprehensible" and adding that "the current legal framework regarding free speech makes it difficult to prevent these messages from being disseminated."

Tomorrow, CSU students and members of greater Cleveland's LGBTQ population and its allies will gather for a rally on the campus. The event: "Let President Berkman Know: Hate Speech Isn't Free Speech." The rally is set for 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the university's courtyard (just north of Euclid Avenue between East 21st and East 24th).

"Telling people to kill themselves isn't a controversial opinion, it's violent hate speech," organizer Molly Stachnik wrote. "CSU students and the community will not be intimidated by these posters and certainly not accept going to school somewhere were are safety and well-being are not valued."

Berkman was scheduled to meet with students this afternoon on the matter. WKYC has video of the forum here. Berkman is set to retire next summer.

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About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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