Story by Erin Dwan, Reporter
Photos courtesy of Breanne Blackwell
On February 6, Regina Hall residents Sierra Mason and Courtney Schwartz received an email from their RA informing them that there had been numerous complaints from students and RAs about the chalk writing that was decorating their door. Their friend, Breanne Blackwell, had written, “I ♡ lesbians,” “we are all equal,” and “the future is female.” Later, another friend wrote the response, “I love that you love lesbians!— a lesbian.”
“We love and agree with these statements, so we left the art up,” Mason said, stressing that she didn’t think there would be any problems with what was written. However, RAs on duty and some other students didn’t feel the same. Mason and Blackwell’s RA wrote in the email, “I know you decorated it for yourself and it’s a way to express yourself, but I’ve gotten a handful of complaints.” She also emphasized that if the door was not cleaned off by the following Sunday, she would have to document the incident.
Blackwell took to Facebook to voice her frustration with her RA’s handling of the situation. “Please enjoy the messages I wrote on my friend’s door that AQ deemed ‘inappropriate’ and told us needs to be erased,” she wrote on February 6.
The Facebook post has been shared over 20 times, and dozens of students and alumni have posted comments in support of the students involved. “Outright, we’ve received nothing but support from current and past AQ students,” Blackwell said. Alumna Lena Peak wrote when sharing the post, “Proud of the students at my alma mater. Not so proud of res life/administration. Keep resisting & keep being proud.”
However, other students feel that Aquinas is being unfairly represented in this situation. Senior student Kyprii Whitney commented on Blackwell’s post, “I just want to protect my college by saying that Aquinas shouldn’t be bashed for this. I think the job of the RA is to make sure everyone feels comfortable with the messages written on doors. SOMEONE, not the RA, felt uncomfortable with this. Aquinas shouldn’t be deemed as unwelcoming because of students’ individual opinions.”
To sum up all the attention the post has been getting on Facebook, Blackwell said, “I believe the whole incident has opened an important dialogue on LGBT+ students living on a Catholic campus.”
The post was later updated to include six more Regina Hall doors, all decorated with pro-LGBTQ messaging in protest of the RA’s email. “We decided that we would all decorate our doors with queer messages to show how unfair we felt the situation was being handled,” Blackwell said.
After the original post picked up traction, other students began to post about the situation as well. “Our RA came to our room and asked us to remove the posts, although they were not ours, and expressed how hurt she felt about it,” Mason said. “We [Mason and Schwartz] are both angered and upset by the actions the RA took, asking us to remove positive messages rather than explaining to those complaining that we were not violating any AQ policies. I just wish there had been an open discussion about this rather than comments and emails because, in my eyes, that’s where the issue lies: not discussing our differences and having an open talk about accepting others for who they are.”
After her Facebook post, Blackwell received a call from Megan Teed, the Residence Life Coordinator at Regina, and met with her the next day. Blackwell made it clear that she can’t fully speak for Teed, but that Teed has been “very understanding of our opinions and agrees the situation was not handled properly.”
Mason agreed. “Res Life has been supportive and diligent in finding more answers and resolving the issue,” she said. The students involved have submitted official statements to Teed as the Residence Life office reviews the situation, and some students have submitted bias reports as well. Julie Blaszak, Director of Residence Life and Community Standards, said, “We are currently investigating the incident, which involves talking to various individuals and gathering additional details. We are also working collaboratively with the Aquinas Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity to ensure we respond comprehensively to the needs of all students now and in the future.”
At the time of publication, the doors remain decorated, and the involved students have not been subject to disciplinary action. “There is no Aquinas policy which prohibits students from decorating their room doors, as long as the content is not obscene, threatening, harasses others, or otherwise compromises the health and safety of others in the community,” Blaszak said. “We encourage students to make their rooms feel like home.”
So, what’s next for the door decorators? “We hope that more decide to join the movement and decorate their doors in support of the LGBTQ+ community,” Mason said.