Editorial: EDITORIAL: MU’s response to The Crossing controversy shows it doesn’t value diversity as much as it leads on

After a transphobic sermon at a local church, MU defended hate speech and left its trans students behind.

MU has had trouble staying out of controversy recently. Less than a week before the Mizzou Athletics Twitter account sent racist tweets regarding its athletes, the university found itself at odds with one of its own departments about an entirely different diversity-related controversy.

After a pastor at The Crossing gave a transphobic sermon, MU’s connections to the church came under fire. The Ragtag Cinema in downtown Columbia, as well as the True/False Film Festival, is partnered with the MU Department of Theatre and sponsored, in part, by The Crossing. These sponsorships total $35,000 to True/False and $8,000 to Ragtag.

As a result of the transphobic sermon, the MU Department of Theatre gave Ragtag and True/False an ultimatum — they could reject sponsorship from The Crossing, or the department would end its partnership. It seems Ragtag took the ultimatum seriously, as it rejected The Crossing’s sponsorship the same day. The Department of Theatre and Ragtag both deserve commendations for taking a stand against transphobia.

The university itself, however, took a different stance, supporting The Crossing’s First Amendment right to be transphobic, rather supporting its trans students. In a tweet from the MU twitter account, the university said the Department of Theatre was “in error” when it demanded Ragtag cut ties with The Crossing, also stating the department’s actions were “inconsistent with [its] value of free speech.”

We’re all entitled to First Amendment rights. It’s the reason we’re able to publish this editorial. But that speech has consequences. When pastors at churches spew hate, they need to be held accountable. Our institutions must uphold secular values and denounce such speech when it happens. MU’s tacit approval of this bigotry is unacceptable.

In these moments, it’s critical to show support for the LGBTQ community. By publicly chastising the Department of Theatre for defending trans identity, MU shows it cares less about diversity than its promotional material would have you believe.

MU is supporting a trend of hate speech. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has found 43 examples of hateful actions or rhetoric against the LGBTQ community by President Trump’s administration in 2019 alone. Such examples include asking the Supreme Court to deny transgender Americans workplace protections and implementing a policy to bar transgender Americans from serving in the military.

It’s no surprise that with the increase in hateful rhetoric, violence against LGBTQ Americans is increasing. Anti-LGBTQ hate crimes have been on the rise since 2014, according to FBI data. Even more pronounced, violence on the basis of gender identity has skyrocketed in the Trump era. The FBI recorded 124 hate crimes against trans people in 2016, a 300% increase in just three years.

MU hasn’t committed any hate crimes here, but they seem to be apathetic in the face of an epidemic of hate speech and hate crimes.

Talk is cheap. Despite claims that MU “actively fosters a living, learning and working community where everyone is valued,” according to the Division of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity, MU’s actions show a troubling amount of comfort with hate speech at the University.

Edited by Maureen Dunne | mdunne@themaneater.com

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