Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Anti-homophobia posters ripped down at university

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IT seemed like a good and simple idea -- promote anti-homophobia within the Université de Saint-Boniface.

But within a day of social work students putting up 20 posters around the campus, every sign had been taken down, some ripped up and chucked in the garbage.

"There's no visibility for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) in our school," said student Renée LeNeveu. "I'm quite shocked by this cowardly, homophobic act, and am frankly ashamed to be attending a school where, as this event has clearly demonstrated, homophobia is a serious issue."

Campus security has allowed the students to examine footage from video cameras, she said. "We're in the process of identifying those who may have done it.

"We have security footage of the person that tore down our display and are working towards identifying them. I am also looking into our existing school policies pertaining to such incidents, and next week, I will try to do some follow-up with the powers that be," LeNeveu said.

USB officials could not immediately be contacted.

"We contacted a member of our administration about the incident, and they responded by asking if we wanted to hold a public forum about the incident," LeNeveu said.

LeNeveu said the idea for the poster campaign came up in class recently, inspired by her field placement at the Rainbow Resource Centre.

Students were discussing the social determinants of health and realized there were no overt signs of USB as a welcoming environment for non-heterosexuals, she explained. LeNeveu had been a member of a Gay Straight Alliance while a student at Lord Selkirk Regional Secondary School.

The social work students realized USB has no groups involved in sexual-orientation issues.

"It's rare -- other schools have lesbian/gay groups," said LeNeveu, who's seen an "ally" sign on only one professor's door on campus.

The students ordered the posters online. All were in French, and they laminated a couple of them, including a poster showing two hockey players about to share a kiss. The lamination made that one salvageable, she said.

The students asked permission within each department before posting the signs on bulletin boards, she said.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 7, 2012 A11

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