A professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire used an e-mail about a campus film festival on homosexual culture as a platform for incendiary, bigoted remarks.
The inaugural Eau Queer Film Festival’s student director sent out an e-mail to the women’s studies program faculty members asking for assistance in publicizing the event. The director received a discouraging response (.pdf) from a campus department chair urging against the promotion of certain aspects of the event.
The UW-Eau Claire women’s studies program asked the student director’s name not be published.
Information Systems Department Chair Thomas Hilton responded to the e-mail and criticized certain aspects of the homosexual lifestyle.
“These, our fellow humans, deserve our best efforts to help them recover their lives,” Hilton said in the e-mail. “We only hurt them further when we choose to pretend that these walking wounded are OK the way they are, that their present injuries are the best they can hope for in life.”
Other administration members condemned Hilton’s remarks.
Michael Rindo, UW-Eau Claire spokesperson, said it was inappropriate of the department chair to engage in an activity or response with a student under the direction of completely separate faculty members.
Rindo said the incident has created a lot of furor on campus and there were many different responses.
UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich applauded the campus’ response to the incident.
In a statement to the University Senate on Wednesday, he said he was fortunate students still remained confident and triumphed in the success of their event.
“The Chancellor wanted to make sure the campus community understood that administration has made an effort to ensure everyone who comes to UW-Eau Claire is treated equally and is treated with respect,” Rindo said. “This event shouldn’t be an exception.”
The students and women’s studies faculty were involved in an immersion project from San Francisco’s Gay Pride and wanted to present the awareness on campus as well, which resulted in the festival.
The event was very well attended despite all the controversy surrounding it. More than 600 people came out over the four-day run last weekend, Oct. 7 to 10, which lead up to National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11, according to Pam Forman, a UW-Eau Claire professor of women’s studies and sociology.
“The purpose of the film festival was to show alternative views of sexualities and ways of living your life,” said Forman. “We achieved this by showing an array of international films, presenting different cultures and how they deal with homosexuality.”
Forman felt too much of the focus was moved from the film festival to the e-mail incident. She said the importance of the event received less attention because of all the fingers that were being pointed as a result.
“We aimed to open people’s eyes to the legitimacy of [Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender] identities and the struggles people go through,” Forman said. “This incident is just reinforcing that struggle.”
Chancellor Levin-Stankevich also expressed concerns in the statement about the campus climate on LBGT issues being very disrupted.
Forman, however, feels the success of the event will prevent the climate from being affected negatively.
“We are constantly trying to improve the LGBT climate around campus because of the heterosexual culture we live in,” Forman said. “We wanted to mix that up.”