Transphobic hate crime reported in Van Meter residential hall

“That week was full of festering rumors about what happened and a deep fear of who would be next”

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Cade Belisle / Daily Collegian

By Zac Brennan and Irina Costache

Editor’s Note: This article has been edited to reflect updated information regarding the matter. 

On Sept. 30, the University of Massachusetts Police Department was notified of a transphobic homophobic incident that occurred in Van Meter Residential Hall. Students living in the residential hall were notified a week later on Oct. 8.

“A student discovered a homophobic slur and threatening words lightly scratched into the door of their room,” stated University spokesperson Mary Dettloff.

No suspect has been identified at this time.

“I do think it’s absurd that, after the email was sent out, Van Meter residents had to wait a week to figure out what actually happened. That week was full of festering rumors about what happened and a deep fear of who would be next,” said August Huber, a Van Meter resident and Stonewall Center employee who attended the meeting.

According to Dettloff, the UMPD officer who responded to the incident took statements from the students targeted and “neither indicated they felt concern for their safety.” The Physical Plant was also notified to remove the words from the door and campus resource information was provided.

To address the incident, the residential hall hosted a “Community Space for Dialogue” on Oct. 14. According to an email sent by Van Meter and Butterfield Residence Director Lindsay Feitler, the meeting was meant to allow students to “come together as a residential community and stand united in denouncing this cowardly act,” as well as ask questions.

According to Dettloff, the meeting was not mandatory, and about 25 to 30 students attended.

Huber added that the meeting was “emotionally draining, to say the least.”

”While it was nice to complain and hear other residents echo my complaints more eloquently, it felt pretty empty other than that,” Huber said. “It felt like residents were often going in circles with the [residential life] staff without a solid conclusion.”

According to Huber, one of the issues discussed during the meeting was a debate over whether the hall should be heavily monitored by security cameras.

“After the dorm meeting, I haven’t seen anything in the way of action… It’d be nice to get a follow up email, maybe,” Huber said.

If a suspect is identified, Dettloff stated that “they would face the student disciplinary process under the Code of Student Conduct, and punishment would range up to and include expulsion.”

Zac Brenna can be reached at [email protected]. Irina Costache can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @irinaacostache.