In the past month, media coverage of LGBTQ teen suicides skyrocketed, prompting responses at colleges nationwide, including at a Brown University Community Council meeting last week and a vigil on campus the week before. As part of the response, Margaret Klawunn, vice president of campus life and student services, sent an e-mail Saturday to students about community standards.
"At Brown University, you are fortunate to live, learn and work in an environment that values respect, integrity, freedom and individual well-being so highly," Klawunn wrote. "We must also acknowledge that we still have a distance to travel to ensure that all members of our University community participate without fear of harassment or isolation."
Klawunn reminded students to have "honest, open and equitable engagement with racial, religious, gender, ethnic, sexual orientation and other differences." She called on students to be "respectful of the rights and privileges of others" and to confront breaches of respectful conduct instead of letting them go.
Also in the e-mail, Klawunn pointed out the University's support services such as the Safe Zone program — which recruits Brown community members to counsel and advocate for students who identify as LGBTQ — and the LGBTQ Resource Center.
The recent attention to the teen suicides has drawn both positive and negative feelings nationwide.
Candi Cushman, an education analyst with the conservative group Focus on the Family, for example, told the Denver Post, "We feel more and more that (gay) activists are being deceptive in using anti-bullying rhetoric to introduce their viewpoints while the viewpoint of Christian students and parents are increasingly belittled."
Dan Savage, an author and LGBTQ rights activist, launched the "It Gets Better" Project on YouTube in September, where people can post videos about their experiences and words of comfort for those being bullied.
"However you are choosing to live is beautiful, and you have my full support and all of my love," said singer and songwriter Kesha. "So please don't ever give up."