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Hate Speech Unacceptable

One would think that at an institution like MIT, students would be open-minded enough to respect or at least tolerate other members of the MIT community. Alas, that’s not always the case.

In the last two weeks, two acts of gay bashing have been brought to public attention. In the first incident, a gay student at East Campus received an e-mail threatening his life and recalling the attack on Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming freshman who was beaten to death in 1998.

In the second incident, a series of vitriolic e-mails referring to the Interfraternity Council as the “Inter-Faggotry Council” and the “most homosexual greek society in the nation” were sent to ifc-talk, a popular public mailing list.

Most students know better and probably find the aforementioned examples of hate speech to be immature and outrageous. However, for some reason, similar incidents recur year after year. For example, nearly two years ago, vandals marred Lambda Chi Alpha’s Smoot marks on the Harvard bridge to read, “Halfway to Queersville” and “LC Gay.” Tau Epsilon Phi was also a victim of anti-homosexual vandalism.

Students who engage in such immature behavior should realize that there’s more at stake than just their reputations. The perception of the entire MIT community is at stake. When a student flames a public mailing list with anti-gay remarks, every member of the MIT community is embarrassed.

Under the First Amendment, everyone is granted the right to be a public bigot. Such people, however, must be prepared to receive public criticisms -- such as ours. Bigotry is disgusting, and there is never an excuse for it.