UW President: Church Elder with Sign Targeting LGBTQ Student Prohibited From Union for One Year
Following the December 2 events in which a church elder named Todd Schmidt from the Laramie Faith Community Church put up a sign on his table at the UW Student Union that targeted a member of the LGBTQ community, the President of the University has said that the man is suspended from reserving a table spot for one year.
That's according to a press release from the University of Wyoming.
On December 2, Schmidt put a sign up on his table, one that featured various religious-themed books and pamphlets, that stated 'God created male and female and [name of the student] is a male."
"Our world, nation and state have experienced an increase in hateful rhetoric targeting historically underrepresented and vulnerable groups, including the LGBTQIAP2S+ community," UW President Ed Seidel wrote. "UW has not escaped this type of bigotry, and we must take an unequivocal stand against it -- while at the same time expressing and demonstrating support for all members of our university community."
Seidel noted that the University has students from 80 countries, all 50 states, and numerous indigenous nations and tribes.
"The recent events on campus should cause us all trepidation for the well-being and safety of our students and employees," he wrote. "I and other UW officials attended a moving and heartfelt vigil off campus Monday night where members of the Queer Community Coalition expressed their concerns and fears for their safety, as well as their hopes for our UW community and future. I emphasize that UW stands with each and every student and all identities who are dealing with safety concerns within our community."
Seidel then referenced a state that Governor Gordon made on Monday, in which he stated that "As the Equality State, Wyoming is not - and should not be - a place where bigotry, discrimination, and anti-Semitisms are tolerated."
Seidel then wrote about the event that happened at the University of Wyoming Student Union.
"Following a review of the Dec. 2 incident in the Wyoming Union involving the harassment of a UW student by an individual external to the university, we have determined that these actions violated the university policy prohibiting discrimination and harassment," the release stated. "Given this, the individual’s privileges to reserve a table in the Union have been suspended for one year."
Seidel said that because a student was directly targeted, that went against UW policies and superseded 'the right to free speech.'
"While freedom of expression is cherished on this campus and across this nation, a line was crossed when a student was harassed by name," he wrote. "This is something we will not tolerate on this campus, and this action speaks to that key principle to which we adhere at UW. Even though this sentiment was evident to all of us on Friday, we want to clearly state it now. We do not tolerate harassment of any student or any university community member."
Seidel also stated that further actions against Schmidt may be taken.
"The UW administration will continue to review this and other acts of harassment that have taken place at UW, and further actions may be taken as a result," he wrote. "Our message is clear: UW will not permit targeted harassment of our students and will do what we feel is necessary, within the bounds of policy, law and constitutional rights, to ensure the safety and well-being of all members of the university community."
Seidel noted that one of the main goals of the University of Wyoming is to be a safe place, a place of warmth, compassion, and inclusivity.
"In closing, next month we welcome our first Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, raising the level of support for diversity in every dimension at UW, with a goal that all of our students, regardless of how they identify, feel welcome and have the ability to succeed at UW," he wrote. "The University of Wyoming is committed to enhancing both principles and actions that support all of our UW students’ ability to thrive. After all, this is how we embody the values of the Equality State."
Schmidt put up the sign on a Friday, and was eventually asked to take it down.
“It started when people saw the sign, particularly females," Schmidt told the UW Branding Iron. "They were agitated, quickly making phone calls to spread my message. Then a bigger crowd gathered. They wanted to block my sign so nobody could see it, with them accusing me of being unkind and not friendly."
Schmidt told the UW Branding Iron that he thought the Dean asking him to take down part of the message, the student's name, was infringing on his rights of freedom of speech.
“I’m just trying to tell the truth and bring people to God," Schmidt posited. "That’s all there is. There are not any more genders than that. Biology teaches everybody about that."
It's unknown if Schmidt had any type of relationship with the student.
“People would rather believe a lie than see the truth," Schmidt said. "There is nothing more loving than being a Christian and preaching the gospel. I am trying to show people the love of God."