News

College Employee’s Homophobic Email Gets Her Canned

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Oct 2, 2009

One employee at all-male Morehouse College, which is located in Atlanta, Georgia, has been fired, and another reprimanded, in the wake of discriminatory comments emailed about the wedding of two African-American men.

The comments were sent from the employees' work accounts, according to an Oct. 1 Atlanta Journal-Constitution story.

The unnamed employee who lost her job had worked in the office of the college president as an administrative assistant, the article said.

The unnamed former employee reportedly was the recipient of an email that included photos taken at the wedding of two gay men. She then allegedly sent the email along to others, having included her own commentary.

Those remarks were seen as conflicting with the college's values, according to statements by college president Dr. Robert M. Franklin, who said in a statement that, "The views expressed in the e-mail entitled, 'The WTD of the Week,' (September 28, 2009) were the personal views of one individual and do not reflect the values or policies of Morehouse College."

Added Dr. Franklin, "The College has taken great strides toward building a diverse and tolerant community."

The article noted that Dr. Franklin has been a supporter of acceptance and diversity, and that the college has instituted a "no tolerance" policy toward discrimination.

The article quoted from comments that Dr. Franklin made to the college's students in which he encouraged the all-male student body to explore issues relating to gays for themselves.

"As an all-male institution with the explicit mission of educating men with disciplined minds, the great challenge of this moment in history is our diversity of sexual orientation," Dr. Roberts said in his address, made last April.

"Read a book by a gay author," advised the college president. "Have an intelligent conversation with a gay neighbor.

"Diversity at Morehouse is an opportunity that can enrich your education if you are courageous enough to seize the opportunity."

Morehouse College belongs to the so-called "Black Ivy League." Its graduates include filmmaker Spike Lee, actor Samuel L. Jackson, and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

An Oct. 1 article at The Southern Voice also quoted from Dr. Franklin's statement, which said that "the College has reminded its staff that the Morehouse e-mail system is College property, should be safeguarded as any other College property, and that e-mails that are discriminatory, inflammatory, or derogatory to any group are prohibited at the College."

Franklin also wrote a letter of apology for the emails, The Southern Voice reported.

"It is my sincere hope that the gay and lesbian community, and most specifically Michael Cole Smith and Jamil Smith Cole--whose wedding photographs became the subject of an unkind and intolerant email sent and forwarded by a Morehouse College employee--will accept my official apology on behalf of the College community," Dr. Franklin wrote.

"Morehouse College-the institution where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of our nation's premier champions of human and civil rights, was nurtured-has a history of promoting tolerance and inclusion for all people," the letter continued.

"Remarks such as the ones made in the e-mail were counter to Dr. King's-and the College's-core values and will not be tolerated from any Morehouse employee or student.

"Effective September 30, the employee who made the offensive comments is no longer working for the College."

Dr. Franklin went on to write, "I will continue to emphasize to the Morehouse community the message that was shared during an April town hall meeting: On the matter of diversity, Morehouse is committed to being a respectful campus that balances personal liberty with the responsibility of membership in a moral community.

"This has been and always will be a community dedicated to promoting respect and tolerance between heterosexuals and homosexuals," gher college president continued.

"We encourage everyone to aspire to high ethical standards and we demand responsible community behavior.

"Those who cannot embrace the Morehouse code of ethics will be sanctioned accordingly."

The Southern Voice quoted from the email in question.

""I can't believe this wedding," the letter, as quoted in the article, read.

"It's 2 men. They don't smile in a lot of pictures and they look like a few brothers I've seen in the streets looking STRAGHT," the quotation continued.

"Black women can't get a break, either our men want another man, a white woman (or other nationality that's light with straight hair), they are locked up in jail or have a "use to be" fatal disease.

"I'm beginning to believe Eve was a black woman and we Black women are paying for all the world's sins through her actions (eating the apple)."

The Southern Voice reported that the pictures were taken at the wedding of Michael Cole Smith and Jamil Smith Cole, who wed on Sept. 13 in a ceremony that took place in Minneapolis.

The article said that the photos had been posted at Facebook by the newlyweds, but were then copied and appeared a a number of blogs.

The article said that many of the comments appearing online with the photos were "hurtful and homophobic."

The Southern Voice quoted Jamil Smith Cole as saying, "I don't get how so many people took it as a personal attack, because it was our wedding, it was something personal to us."

An Oct. 1 article at Web site Rod 2.0, also reported on the story, noting that the college had in the past been the site of "numerous well-publicized cases of homophobia, including harassment of gay students and accusations of anti-gay hiring bias at the College of Medicine.

"In November 2002, one 'Morehouse man' nearly killed another student with a baseball bat because he believed the boy was gay and made a pass at him," the Rod 2.0 article added.

The Rod 2.0 article confirmed that the pictures had "been posted to many black gossip blogs where hateful anti-gay commentary is standard operating procedure.

"At ghetto-obsessed and fact-challenged Bossip, there are almost 500 comments at the post charmingly entitled "What the Hell is Wrong with These Pictures". The majority are negative," the article noted.

"One woman compares gay men to 'rapists and serial killers'."

However, the article went on to note, "quite a few comments were supportive and many criticized Bossip for 'spreading hate.'"

Opined Rod 2.0, "Gang bangers, criminals and babies' daddies who skip child support payments are idolized by our thug-obsessed, hyper-masculine urban culture.

"Two black gay men in love, who own a successful business and contribute to the economy? Not so much."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


Comments

  • Grisley Addams, 2009-10-06 15:55:15

    It’s a shame that a school employee made such comments and then forward them to others, but it is even more of a shame that she had to lose her job over it instead of being educated about why it was wrong. The "Zero Tolerance" policy is a hate crime because people should be able to speak their minds even if others find it abscene. She may not agree with same sex marriage but who loses the most? We just lost another individual to extreme intolerance.


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