On Dec. 20, a harassing voicemail was left on the main voicemail line of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center at UC San Diego. The call was made at 6:19 pm and included hateful and derogatory messages aimed toward people who identify as homosexual.
The voicemail was forwarded to the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, which is responsible for resolving matters of discrimination by investigation.
The message was also forwarded to the UCSD Campus Police, which opened a formal investigation. It was determined that the person who made the phone call, who gave an identification in the voicemail, is not affiliated with UC San Diego.
“Because the caller was not a UCSD affiliate, there are no policies from the university that apply to the situation. The caller was protected in their speech via the First Amendment [of the United States Constitution]. The First Amendment protects virtually all speech, no matter how unorthodox, offensive or distasteful,” Dr. Shaun Travers, Campus Diversity Officer and Director of the LGBT Resource Center told the Guardian. “As a public research university, UC San Diego supports everyone’s right to free speech. This discourse, however, was not civil, respectful, or reasoned, and was deeply offensive and hurtful.”
A detective with the University Police Department has told the Guardian that the investigation is still ongoing and that it has been submitted as a potential hate crime. The case has been turned over to the City Attorney’s office who will decide whether to file charges. If charges are filed, the suspect may be asked to either surrender to city officials or post bail.
“We have not received a phone call like this in many, many years,” Travers stated. “In the mid-‘90s, this was a common occurrence on the answering machine of the student organization that was a predecessor to the LGBT Resource Center.”
According to the OPHD’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, three hate crimes were reported at UCSD in 2016. In 2014 and 2015, there were none. Recently published FBI statistics have also highlighted a rise in hate crimes throughout the country in the past few years.
Travers said that the voicemail serves to remind the Resource Center goal of their goal.
“The mission of UC San Diego’s LGBT Resource Center is to be a diverse and open space for all members of the university community to explore issues relating to sexual and gender identities, practices and politics,” Dr. Travers told the Guardian. “This voicemail was a reminder that we need to continue to engage our community on and off campus in order to continue the dialogues which move all people towards respect and inclusion.”
Dr. Travers also noted the strong support from the UCSD administration for the Resource Center. Students, staff, and faculty can use the school’s Free Speech Website to better understand their rights to expression.
Photo by LGBT Weekly