Some students criticized the “One Wall, One Mizzou #StandWithSam” Facebook event last week after reports that pro-LGBT comments were being deleted off the page.
The Feb. 15 event, organized by sophomores Alix Carruth and Kelaney Lakers, combated the protests of the Westboro Baptist Church in response to the statements of former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam.
Standing at the corner of Stadium Boulevard and Providence Road, Columbia residents formed a counterprotest with a human line of black and gold.
However, it was the actions on the event’s Facebook page that stirred up some controversy rather than the event itself.
Sophomore Dylan Hilton said his comment was deleted about an hour after he posted it.
“In the description of the event, it said, ‘This is not an event for or against the LGBTQ community,’ ” Hilton said. “So I quoted that, and said, ‘He came out, at least in part, to make a stand for the LGBTQ community. Supporting Michael (Sam) means supporting that community.’ ”
Hilton contacted Carruth after his friends told him that the comment had been deleted. He said his immediate reaction was more surprise than anger because he feels that nothing he said was inflammatory.
“I wondered why anyone would delete it in the first place,” Hilton said. “I just really said it because the reason he came out was to make a statement. He talked about how he wanted to be comfortable wherever he was drafted in the NFL, but I think that he also did it because of the current state of affairs, which is that there are no openly gay NFL players.”
Creating a Facebook event is one thing, but trying to control a crowd’s beliefs, actions or apparel is an entirely different matter, Hilton added.
“I think she feels like she might have ramifications with her job, which is at a church camp, if I understand correctly,” Hilton said. “Maybe she shouldn’t have been the person to host the event, not because she didn’t have the skills to do it or is a homophobe herself, but because she was in between a rock and a hard place trying to organize this event while keeping her job.”
Hilton said that after he noticed his comment was deleted, he stopped paying attention to the Facebook event.
Sophomore Shelby Fullerton also realized a comment she had made on the page was deleted that night while checking to see what else had been posted on the page.
“I posted a few comments regarding students wearing rainbow flags and colors and showing support for gay rights,” Fullerton said. “I posted them because I believed that this issue was much bigger than MU. It was a big mark on the gay community, and I believed it should have been treated as such.”
Fullerton said she had mixed feelings regarding her comments being deleted. She was understanding of the motives of Carruth and Lakers but was also angry that pro-LGBT comments were deleted on the page for an event centered on LGBT pride.
“The fact that those who created the event didn’t want to ‘limit’ those in attendance to pro-LGBTQ individuals is a bit silly to me,” Fullerton said. “If you claim to stand with Sam, you should stand behind his sexual orientation, not the fact that he made MU a huge topic of discussion.”
Fullerton did not attend the event, but said she might have had it been more of a celebration of LGBT rights.
She said that growing up around Kansas City has familiarized her with WBC protests.
“They want attention because that’s how they get headlines,” Fullerton said. “Growing up, I learned that there is a time when it’s better to ignore them.”
Carruth said the posts were not deleted from the event wall on the basis of pro-LGBT content. She said that neither she nor Lakers had ever organized an event like this one, and they just did what they thought was best.
“As far as school spirit goes, this event did a fantastic job,” Fullerton said. “I know Alix (Carruth) fairly well, and I have nothing wrong with her personally. I just would have preferred the event to have been run by people who were willing to make it a celebration of gay rights.”
Hilton says that while Carruth and Lakers might have wanted to keep the event neutral, neutrality was not possible in this kind of situation.
“The goal of the event from the start was to reflect a unified student body and symbolize a display of love towards our own Tiger, Michael Sam,” Carruth said. “We apologize if our intentions were misconstrued in the process.”