A free-speech debate has erupted at Cleveland State University after the school’s lukewarm response to the posting of a homophobic flier that encourages lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students to commit suicide.
(Warning: This article contains disturbing content.)
The flier was posted last week on a billboard in CSU’s main classroom building, according to Cleveland’s Plain Dealer newspaper. It reportedly appeared the same day that the university’s first LGBTQ center opened its doors.
The flier shows the silhouette of a man hanging from a noose, statistics on LGBTQ suicides, and the words “Follow Your Fellow FAGGOTS.”
At the bottom of the poster, the words “Fascist Solutions” were printed. No individual or group has claimed responsibility. A similar flier was spotted in Houston earlier this year.
University officials said they removed the poster as soon as they were alerted to it, and said they were investigating its source.
The school’s reasoning for taking down the flier, however, has provoked widespread criticism on CSU’s campus and beyond.
William Dube, university director of communications and media relations, told WOIO-TV that the flier had been removed because “proper posting procedure was not followed.”
“Prior approval needs to be provided before posters are added to that billboard,” Dube said.
If the flier had been put up following the correct protocol, it would not have been taken down, Dube told The Plain Dealer. “According to the legal framework related to free speech it would have been allowed,” he said.
In a letter to the school community on Monday, university President Ronald Berkman appeared to defend the flier, saying the school would “continue to protect free speech.”
Berkman wrote that while CSU was “fully committed to campus community that respects all individuals,” the school was also “committed to upholding the First Amendment, even with regard to controversial issues where opinion is divided,” according to BuzzFeed.
The university’s initial response to the flier was met with harsh criticism.
I love that these photos went up at my university Cleveland State University& the President's response was to say "First amendment rights" pic.twitter.com/0pu0tspRnh— (((Elizabeth))) (@SoSayWeAll777) October 16, 2017