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Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022

First-year Feb’s whiteboard defaced to display homophobic slur

<span class="photocreditinline"><a href="">Benjy Renton</a></span><br />Forest Hall, which currently houses upperclassmen and first-year Febs, is where Isabeau Trimble ’24.5 had their whiteboard vandalized with a homophobic slur.
Benjy Renton
Forest Hall, which currently houses upperclassmen and first-year Febs, is where Isabeau Trimble ’24.5 had their whiteboard vandalized with a homophobic slur.

First-year Feb Isabeau Trimble ’24.5 returned to their room on Tuesday morning to find the contents of the whiteboard on their door edited to display a homophobic slur. A resident of Forest Hall, Trimble had originally written “FAQ” on the board followed by a few personal fun facts. On Tuesday, however, a portion of the letter “Q” in FAQ had been erased, turning it into a “G,” according to Trimble.  

As a first-year Feb, Trimble had only been on campus for a little more than a week before the slur was put on their whiteboard. “It was really surprising to me that it happened here. I’ve been aware of the very open and very accepting culture that exists here and so it was surprising to me, obviously,” Trimble said.

Trimble, who uses all pronouns, immediately sent a message to the Forest Hall GroupMe, notifying their neighbors of what had just happened. “Everybody was like ‘Holy crap, this is hate speech,’ — which, like, it is hate speech,” Trimble said in an interview with The Campus.

“What surprised me the most was how everybody [in the GroupMe] reacted to it. I come from a very Trump-y area of Virginia and calling gay people that there is the norm and if you don’t laugh at it then you’re oversensitive,” they continued. “So it was refreshing to see that it was taken so seriously.”

Trimble was unaware they could file a formal complaint with the college until The Campus referenced the process in an interview. Nevertheless, they do not plan to file a complaint. “It’s annoying, for sure, and it would be really great if it didn’t happen,” they said. “Maybe I’m giving this person too much benefit of the doubt, but whoever did it probably had a middle-school mindset, did the little erase, went ‘hehehe,’ and left.”

Trimble explained that they did not want a potential formal investigation to damage the perpetrator’s academic career. “Should they have done it? Absolutely not. Should they feel bad about it? Yeah. But I don’t know exactly what the repercussions are here for hate speech but I imagine [the administration] probably takes it very seriously,” Trimble said. “I just don’t want to completely ruin somebody’s academic career over something like that, as annoying as it is to me that I had to put up with it.” 

“I definitely would say that obviously to me that’s not representative of the whole group. It was a little surprising but overall it didn’t really affect how I view the community,” Trimble said. “If anything it was refreshing to see that it was taken so seriously, if anything it made me feel better about the community here.”

This is the second instance of hateful language being directed at students in as many semesters. In the fall, Rodney Adams ’21 and Jameel Uddin ’22 were accosted and called the n-word by a white student while walking near Ross. 

Fellow Forest resident Jasmin Animas Tapia ’21, who sits on the board of Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC), wasn’t surprised that this had happened.

“I was disappointed but not shocked because Middlebury isn’t free from prejudice or discrimination and that people will let you know of this through their words and behaviors,” Animas Tapia said. “It’s just a tiring reminder that these things happen and that if you are openly queer or read as queer, you are never really safe.”

Forest Community Assistant Ben Beese ’21.5 was upset when he found out about the slur. “This is the sort of thing that you know happens in the world but my expectations of my peers and the people I live with is so much higher than that… I think it’s a sign of how much more work we have to do when it comes to building community.”

Beese says community as a concept is nuanced and complex. “We're talking about the difference between people living in proximity to each other, in physical co-incidence, and people who form an interconnected whole,” Beese said. “In community, people care about each other and, to a large degree, depend upon each other. I think an incident like we saw the other day demonstrates how that’s not the case here.”

Although they do not plan on filing a complaint with the school, Trimble still has a message for whoever directed the slur at them. 

“Just because I’m accustomed to it and just because I wasn’t hurt that much by it, if someone else had been the target, they could have been impacted much worse by it,” Trimble said. “Just because some people are more used to it than others doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be vigilant in not-hating on people. Don’t be jerks, people.”

Jake Gaughan

Jake Gaughan is an Editor at Large.

He previously served as an Opinion Editor and News Editor.