By Jordan Press and Jen Gerson
Vandalism, harassment and threatening phone calls are plaguing RyePRIDE and the group feels Ryerson isn’t taking the situation seriously.
“Ryerson doesn’t feel homophobia is a huge issue on campus,” said RyePRIDE coordinator Matt Radford. “We have to present evidence of homophobia before they’ll do something.”
The group called security after 100 pink posters demanding equality for same-sex marriage were torn down.
“I was postering last Friday and I heard some homophobic comments as people were passing by,” said RyePRIDE volunteer Illanit Goren. “After 15 minutes the posters I put up around the escalators were gone.”
“With putting same-sex marriage on the agenda, there has been more [harassment],” said Ann Whiteside, discrimination and harassment prevention officer. She has noticed a rise in homophobic incidents on campus since the group became more noticeable. “Being put in the limelight has made [the group] more of a target.”
RyePRIDE is now asking volunteers to poster in pairs for their safety. Whiteside said that is a good idea for any group with posters that contain a controversial message. She has not had to advise any other group to poster in pairs.
Radford acknowledges that RyePRIDE likes to draw attention with its campaigns, because it forces people to talk about the issues.
The best thing people can do is to break the silence surrounding homophobia said Whiteside.
“If you hear homophobic comments, point them out,” she said.
“I’ve heard people making joking commends, calling each other ‘fags,’” said Lory Capoccia, a second-year industrial engineering student. “People forget that discrimination doesn’t end with racism.”
RyePRIDE has also received hours worth of harassing phone messages on the group’s voice-mail over the last several months. Security has now advised the group to call the police.
Members have heard students yell “fag” at their first floor office.
By putting up the posters advertising for a protest last week, Whiteside believes RyePRIDE has “started a dialogue.”
She said the same-sex marriage debates are being quashed by those who rip down the papers.
“Ryerson just has a huge community of gay people. It’s just not right for people to think they’re above others,” said Jesse Stong, another volunteer.
“There’s a lot of homophobia in society and Ryerson is a microcosm of society,” said Whiteside. “If there’s a homophobia problem in society, there’s usually a homophobia problem on campus.”