Embry-Riddle addresses student concerns after LGBTQ monument defaced

By : Jeremy Williams
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. | Leadership at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. are responding to student and community outrage with a call for respect after an LGBTQ-painted monument was defaced with homophobic and transphobic phrases.

The incident occurred overnight Oct. 31 after the university’s LGBTQ organization, P.R.I.D.E., painted the campus’ Spirit Rock — a large rock the school’s groups take turns painting supporting various causes. P.R.I.D.E. painted Spirit Rock with the trans pride flag colors on one side and the rainbow pride flag colors on the other with the phrase “#WontBeErased.”

Overnight the monument was vandalized with the perpetrators blacking out the phrase except for the word “Erased.” They also wrote “Straight Pride” and “Only 2 Genders” in several spots and drew a picture of Spongebob Squarepants holding up a giant pencil.

Following the incident, Embry-Riddle leadership sent an email to all university students saying they were investigating the matter, adding “Embry-Riddle is committed to creating and maintaining an inclusive community in which students, faculty and staff can work together in an atmosphere free from all forms of discrimination and harassment.”

The email goes on to say that the university’s Spirit Rock is intended for freedom of expression, not for any hateful, abusive or bullying messages or behaviors.

“We expect messages on the Spirit Rock to be respectful of the campus and community. This past week, these guidelines were not followed. Messages on the Spirit Rock were disrespectful to members of our LGBT community,” the email read.

Several students expressed to local media they did not feel the email went far enough to address the incident, leading Embry-Riddle Assistant VP for News and Communications Ginger Pinholster to meet with reporters.

“Embry-Riddle prides itself in what we call the Eagle Spirit – that is, everyone here is expected to help everyone else here, and to look for ways to be of service. Although the defacement of our Spirit Rock was upsetting and unfortunate, it does offer an opportunity for all of us to come together and reaffirm what we stand for,” she said.

Senior staff, faculty and students from across campus also gathered at Spirit Rock as a way for leaders and students to express support and speak out against expressions of hate and intolerance, said Pinholster.

“We stand with our LGBT community,” Pinholster said. “We will not tolerate hate speech or other forms of bullying behavior. Such behaviors can result in immediate disciplinary action, including suspension. We have asked anyone with information to please come forward.”

 

Below is the full email sent to Embry-Riddle students, provided to us by the university administration.

Additional reporting by Melanie Ararat.

Photo from Terisa Sharp’s Facebook page.

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