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An open letter from President James Garland

Last week, two instances of intimidation and hatred served to remind us that strong currents of intolerance still exist in our community.

The first incident was a burning cross found on the lawn of a resident of Oxford Township. That crime is being investigated by the Oxford Township Police and the Butler County Sheriff’s Office with assistance from the FBI.

The other incident was an anonymous e-mail sent Oct. 20 to 12 signers of an advertisement that appeared in The Miami Student on "National Coming Out Day." Although the e-mail apparently did not meet the technical definition of a crime, it was clearly an unprovoked and unwarranted attack on the signers that was intended to intimidate and frighten them. The e-mail expressed the desire that the 12 recipients "should go find (themselves) a ceiling rafter and a sturdy piece of rope."

Although the incidents appear to be unrelated, their perpetrators share two traits. The first is a profound ignorance. Intolerance and hatred are the hallmarks of uneducated minds, and the continued presence of such people in our society underscores the responsibility of schools, churches and colleges to help all citizens develop their sense of humanity.

The second trait is cowardice. Hiding behind a cloak of anonymity, the perpetrators of both incidents lacked the moral fiber to subject themselves to the public condemnation that they knew their despicable actions would provoke. Their behavior stands in stark contrast to the courage of the 12 persons who placed the advertisement in The Miami Student.

There is a sentence in the Miami University Values Statement that reads, "Members of our community respect the dignity of other persons, the rights and property of others, and the right of others to hold and express disparate beliefs." Events such as those of last week highlight the importance of this statement to the well-being of our university community. The persons who committed these reprehensible acts have violated the most basic precepts of decency and respect and are not welcome here.

However, their actions deserve more than our contempt. Let us resolve also to use this occasion to redouble our efforts to reach out to others who are different from ourselves, whether by sexual orientation, racial or ethnic background, religious or political affiliation, or lifestyle. The best weapon against hate and intolerance lies in the respect we accord our own neighbors, friends and colleagues.

Date Published: 10/31/2002
Volume: 22   Number: 14

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