Here's the school's response. Note at the end a whole day of positive events scheduled for their day of protest.
Dear members of the Vassar community,
I am writing to share details about the events planned on campus next week to honor and affirm our collective goals of inclusiveness and respect. I am very grateful to the many students, faculty, staff, and alumnae/i who have collaborated to develop these ideas and plan what I believe will be an effective counterpoint to the messages of the Westboro Baptist Church.
These events reflect our community’s commitment to inclusion as expressed in a resolution passed by the faculty this week:
“Whereas outside organizations have chosen to criticize Vassar College for its support of its LGBTQ students, employees, and alumnae/i, the faculty of Vassar College hereby reaffirms its commitment to the principle of inclusion and pledges its support for activities that celebrate that principle.”|
As we move beyond these specific events, I look forward to sustained conversations on issues of campus climate and institutional support for inclusiveness at Vassar, initiated by students and others. Our community can accomplish amazing things as we work together to become an ever-more-affirming place.
The current schedule of events is included below. Updates will be posted at the Vassar Do Something website (http://pages.vassar.edu/do- something-vc/), in the VassarEvents emails, and through the college’s social media.
We urge our students and employees not to engage the Westboro picketers, who will be at a location outside of campus through arrangements with the Town of Poughkeepsie Police Department. We have been advised by the Department of Justice that while the Westboro group is non-violent and law-abiding in its actions, they will hope to elicit reactions. All of our best advice tells us that we will respond most effectively if we do not confront the picketers. We also want to ensure everyone’s safety, which we cannot do off campus. The Town of Poughkeepsie police will be responsible for monitoring and addressing events outside our boundaries.
The coordinating committee, student organizers, and members of the administration encourage those who wish to counter Westboro’s message to do so by joining the campus gathering next Thursday, the 28th, from 12:45 to 3 pm in the Residential Quad. This will be a powerful way to express our community’s values.
All of us have been heartened by the support of our alumnae/i from all over the world, as well as from groups and individuals throughout the Hudson Valley. We encourage those who plan to come to campus to show support for Vassar, to do so by joining our on-campus gathering. (If you know supporters who plan to come to campus, please advise them that parking will be limited.) There are also related alumnae/i events planned for locations around the country, so we know many of our alums will be supporting us in spirit as well. To date we know of events planned for New York City, Boston, Chicago, Southern California, and Kansas City.
I want to acknowledge the efforts of members of the Vassar community, including the numerous campus organizations, that have been engaging in ongoing work to increase social awareness. In response to Westboro’s messages, the student group, Do Something VC, which has been instrumental in facilitating discussions and activities that affirm students’ commitment to equality, acceptance, and social justice, is raising funds for Vassar as well as for important off-campus organizations that support local LGBTQ youth. Their website provides a variety of options for donating. The students chose two area organizations: GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) Hudson Valley Chapter and the Ali Forney Center, which addresses homelessness of LGBTQ youth. The students also offer opportunities to give to the college: Vassar’s Annual Fund and Vassar’s Fund for Social Justice and Inclusion. The Fund for Social Justice and Inclusion resides within the Office of Campus Life and Diversity in support of college programs and centers that address the issues of sexuality, gender, race and ethnicity, and religious and spiritual life. Vassar’s Annual Fund, by its very nature, supports all aspects of student life.
We also are proud of the initiative of our alumnus Josh de Leeuw ’08, who quickly developed a fund-raising response to Westboro’s announcement. To date, this effort has raised a remarkable $85,000 for the Trevor Project, a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth:
http://www.crowdrise. com/VCFeb28/fundraiser/ joshdeleeuw
Our community is truly an amazing place.
Schedule of Events: (Please check the sources noted above for changes and additions.)
Tuesday, Feb. 26:
Religion Department Teach-In
“The Politics of Religion & Homosexuality: Making Sense of Westboro Baptist Church”
Location: Rockefeller Hall, room 300
A panel of faculty from the Department of Religion will provide some context --historical, textual, and political -- to the evolving ways that religious traditions have understood non-heteronormative relationships and sexual orientations. The department will consider the charge made against religion -- that religion is the crucial source of the lasting prejudice against the LGTBQ community. The department will also consider whether prospectively religion might contribute in constructive ways to the pursuit of LGTBQ equality.
Wed., Feb. 27:
Vassar Community Town Hall Meeting
5 – 7 pm
Location: UpCDC (Students’ Building/second floor)
For students and employees
Supporters from off-campus are welcome, but because space is limited, groups should limit their attendance to one or two representatives.
Practical guidance for participation as well as conversation about inclusiveness and other issues of campus climate.
Wed Feb 27, 7-9pm
LGBTQ Community Gathering and Dinner
Description: LGBTQ-identified students, faculty, administrators and staff are invited to come together for an informal dinner, followed by fun community-building activities led by Spectrum and ALANA leaders and the Assistant Director for Campus Life/LGBTQ and Gender Resources.
Walking Meditation among Paper Lanterns
Location: Library lawn
Walk a candle-lit spiral path to quiet the mind, awaken the senses, and enjoy the outdoors.
Sponsored by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.
Thurs., Feb. 28:
Campus Gathering/ Celebrating and Questioning
12:45 – 3 pm
Location: Residential Quad
Supporters welcome at these events.
12:45 – 1:20: Food, music, and student speakers
1:20 – 1:35: Keynote remarks by Joseph Tolton ’89, National Minister of Social Justice, the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries in New York City
1:40 – 2:30: Gathering honoring inclusiveness
2:30 – 3 pm Closing remarks
Alternative spaces to the campus gathering on the Quad will be available for those who wish to join others in community or contemplation during the afternoon. Those spaces, which will be staffed, include the ALANA Center, the Bayit within Religious and Spiritual Life, the LGBTQ Center, the Women’s Center, and the Villard Room. As usual, the Chapel will be open for quiet reflection.