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Editorial: UCLA unfairly leaves many students in the dark about Westboro Baptist Church picketing

By Editorial Board

Feb. 10, 2020 12:33 a.m.

This post was updated Feb. 10 at 10:55 a.m.

UCLA will be the first to tout its support of the LGBTQ+ community on campus.

But for students who don’t publicly identify as such, that support feels inaccessible to those who might need it the most.

The Westboro Baptist Church picketed outside Murphy Hall on Monday, protesting UCLA’s inclusive LGBTQ+ policies, according to a Tuesday email from university officials. The email noted various support resources that the Office of the Dean of Students would provide to those affected by the protest, such as community spaces and the availability of Counseling and Psychological Services.

But considering the email was only sent to campus groups openly affiliated with LGBTQ+ issues, those details were anything but inclusive.

Providing spaces for individuals potentially affected by Monday’s events is admirable on the part of the university and the LGBTQ+ organizations on campus. But by sharing that information only with select groups, UCLA is hindering the ability of many students to access the resources being made available to others in the community. Whether students choose not to publicly identify as LGBTQ+ or are simply not affiliated with these organizations, they deserve the same information and access to support from their university.

And the resources provided are plentiful.

The email offered pre- and post-event community spaces to help students understand their legal rights and process the emotional impact of the protest. In addition, the UCLA LGBTQ Campus Resource Center is hosting counseling drop-in hours alongside CAPS.

With the Office of the Dean of Students helping to offer these resources, the university is clearly making the effort to stand behind the LGBTQ+ community. But as a university initiative, they must make those resources known to every student – especially those LGBTQ+ students who are not openly a part of LGBTQ+ organizations on campus.

Students who have not publicly identified their sexual or gender orientation may be one of the groups most at risk in terms of emotional trauma caused by Monday’s event. And that isn’t even mentioning religious groups and others who are regularly targeted by the Westboro Baptist Church.

These students’ mental well-being should be just as important to the university, and failing to inform the entire student body is a gross oversight.

Granted, UCLA is a public campus, and organizations have every right to protest here as such. There is nothing the administration can do to shut out hate groups – freedom of speech, even hate speech, has been routinely protected by countless Supreme Court cases.

Not only that, but opening the doors to large-scale student support initiatives when certain groups come to campus could set a difficult precedent. Hate speech is widely debated, and universitywide outreach isn’t always feasible. But considering the resources already exist in this case, all it would take to support students is an extended invitation.

UCLA knows the protest is coming and is prepared to work through the event with CAPS and existing LGBTQ+ organizations.

But for other impacted students, UCLA’s silence will leave them feeling more isolated than ever.

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