Oregon College Students Apologize for Anti-Gay Graffiti

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday May 28, 2010

Hate crime--or simple prank that got out of hand? Two students at Southern Oregon University, one of them a theater major, have apologized for scrawling graffiti demeaning to gays on the wall of a "gender neutral" floor in a dormitory.

The two young men, Blake Adkins and Kevin Novotny, say that they had no intention to harass anybody, and now seek to rehabilitate themselves through an apology and volunteer work at the university's GLBT center, reported southern Oregon newspaper the Mail Tribune on May 28.

"We already had markers in our hands and we started to draw stuff on the walls, and it escalated," Adkins recounted, explaining how he and Novotny came to scrawl graffiti that one student said made some feel unsafe. Said Adkins, "We're good people--we just made a mistake. It was a reckless act. It wasn't supposed to be a hate crime or anything like that. It was a poor choice of words.

"Kevin and I would like to say that we're deeply and sincerely sorry to all that were affected," the student added.

"Absolutely," seconded Novotny.

"We are voluntarily doing things in a positive manner to show that we are good citizens and we do care and love everyone," Adkins insisted, referring to the letters of apology he and Novotny have said they will write to every one of the residents on the affected floor and the hours of volunteering the two plan to put in at the GLBT center.

The two faced charges in the incident, pled guilty, and paid a fine, but they may still face punishment from the university's administration.

The university's vice president for student affairs, Jonathan Eldridge, said that the two students might "receive anything from a warning to permanent dismissal" over the incident, which involved at least one dorm building and possibly a second as well. The graffiti sparked student involvement in denouncing anti-gay harassment and intimidation, a May 28 article in local; newspaper the Ashland Daily Tidings reported.

The incident took place in the wake of a Feb. 1 incident in which the office space of a GLBT student organization at another Oregon university was attacked with graffiti. Advocate.com reported on that incident in a Feb. 2 posting.

The incident occurred at the University of Oregon in Eugene. A person or persons unknown spray-painted a large swastika on a wall in the office of the school's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Queer Alliance. A computer was also damaged by paint. The vandalism occurred not long after the university hosted a hate group, the Pacifica Forum, on its campus. The group, which sponsored a discussion about the swastika--a symbol widely associated with the Nazis, but which in ancient India was regarded as an auspicious marking--was allowed on campus under the school's free speech policy.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. 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.