Campus Hate Crime Inspires Another Push For LGBT Student Group At GA College

In late March, a student at Berry College in Mount Berry, GA, came back to his dorm room one night to find bleach poured in his top dresser drawers, and a note that read “faggot nigger fuck off.” When he went to his car, he discovered his back right tire slashed and the bottle of bleach behind his car.

The student, who name isn’t be released, told The Carrier, “Racially it’s upsetting that someone hates me for who I am. Sexually it’s upsetting that some-one hates me for who they think I am. The past couple days have been extremely uncomfortable. I consider Berry my home and I feel like I have been violated in my own home.”

The incident brought immediate response from campus police, Resident Life, and the Dean of Students, as well as from professor John Countryman, who asserted the need for an official LGBT club on campus.

Responding to a campuswide email from VP for Student Affairs Debbie Heida, Countryman said, “That’s terrific but it would be a honorable start on the college’s part to back up those words by sanctioning an official LGBT organization on campus. Talk is cheap.”

A Berry alumni emailed Queerty to explain that though there have been efforts to try and start a gay-student group at Berry for almost a decade, it’s been routinely denied. “The current president, Dr. Briggs, thinks that homosexuality is a moral choice,” she says. “and that an LGBT club is an advocate group [that] does not deserve official club status.”

The  Berry grad cites numerous “ridiculous” clubs that are officially recognized by the school—including the Society of Outdoor Life and Experience (SOLE), Ultimate Frisbee, Berry College Alternative Realities Club, the Vikettes (Women’s Dance Team) and the In His Name Gospel Choir.

LISTEN, an unoffical group that doesn’t receive funds from student fees, was founding in 2003. It was approved by then- President Scott Colley in 2004, but the Board of Trustees intervened and denied LISTEN club status on the stated grounds that it is an “advocacy” group. It doesn’t appear Briggs will sanction it any time soon.

Y’know who else is an officially recognized club at Berry? The Fellowship of Christian Athletes! You know, that group that doesn’t allow LGBT members and that works with ex-gay groups to, what—exercise the gay out of you?

Yeah that’s some money well spent right there.

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  • Kev C

    Berry College offers a modern curriculum of blood-letting, witch-dunking and alchemy. Alchemy is useful for paying tuition in transmuted gold.

  • 13Zeroither

    @Kev C isn’t alchemy make believe?

  • Alan

    Maybe gay students should stop paying through the nose to attend insular little bubble schools where they’re obviously not welcome. You can get a superior education at a state school and not be treated like a hell-bound sodomite. UGA, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, even Kennesaw State are all gay-friendly schools that look better on a resume than some rinky-dink Christian school that’s noteworthy only for its pretty campus and institutional homophobia.

  • Jessica

    While I’m really grateful that y’all featured this story so we can bring publicity to the issue, I just want to make it clear that the hostile tone taken in this article is not what LISTEN and its advocates are supporting.

  • Bekah

    Thank you for posting this story about the events going on at Berry. However, please note that the hostility reflected in this article, especially against other groups, is not what we are trying for. We seek to work WITH groups such as SOLE ect. We do not think that any group on campus is “ridiculous” or should not be there. We seek to have equal status with them, and work with them for our cause. Our aim is to be peaceful and diplomatic in our proceedings to attain full membership status.

  • Becky

    As a LISTEN alumna (there is no such thing as “an alumni,” by the way), I can assure you that LISTEN has never supported divisiveness among clubs. Several of the clubs your source called “ridiculous” were founded by LISTEN members, and we have always supported and been supported by many of the other student groups on campus.

  • Mike

    My ex-boyfriend graduated from Berry. I went to the campus more than once and I wasn’t horribly impressed with how forward-thinking it was. Not that there aren’t gay students or enlightened students but they didn’t seem to be in the majority. Granted, this was seven years ago, perhaps things have changed, but it doesn’t sound like it.

  • Eric McGovern

    While I appreciate the passion of the Berry Alum in the article, I just want it to be known that I have no animosity towards other clubs at Berry. I was a part of Listen from 2007-2008 and was there the last time there were meetings about the status of the club. I also helped found the Society of Outdoor Life and Experience (SOLE) because it was something that also should have existed officially long ago and it took quite a bit of effort to get an outdoors club like that started even though we had a campus that was perfect for such a concept. I just want to make it clear that people who are involved in Listen have been involved in other clubs at Berry College and are active members of the Berry community.

    Eric McGovern
    Berry College
    Class of 2008

  • Mike

    With that said, Berry isn’t a typical “we hate fags” Southern private school you hear about all too often on this blog and others. If I remember correctly it has even dropped a specific denomination that it’s associated with, just focusing on “Christianity” as a whole and students don’t even have to be Christians to attend the school. If you’re looking for a Bob Jones or a Liberty or an Oral Roberts, Berry isn’t it.

    It still has a long way to go though.

  • Carrie

    As a gay alumnus of Berry College I must state; Berry’s a wonderful school with kind and generous students, faculty and staff. I was openly gay during my time there and even now am involved in this discussion, as many of our alums, current students and professors are. Gay students dare not leave the insular bubble where they supposed pay through the nose, it’s our job to continue the push for equality everywhere, even Berry. Also, advocates of LISTEN support all groups on campus and are affiliated with the ones you deem “ridiculous” who are we to determine what is or is not worthy of club status as we strive for our own. I love frisbee golf and SOLE, does that mean I can’t suppory LISTEN too? No. While I appreciate your article on LISTEN, I wish you would reflect the same respect and compassion that the supporters of LISTEN do, free of mud slinging and negating others.

  • Mike

    Out of staters also fail to realize that you don’t have to pay out the nose to attend Berry either. Unless something has changed, Berry still accepts the HOPE Scholarship like UGA and GA State and other publics do.

  • Kev C

    If I graduate from Berry, will I be able to get a job at a call center?

  • Mike

    @Kev C: What kind of question is that? It’s a legit accredited school, not some churchy diploma mill.

  • Houston Bill

    Ah, yes, the school that has received millions from anti-Gay funder Truett Cathy from Chick-Fil-A. I wonder if it is just a coincidence that Mr. Cathy is donating to Berry and the school is anti-Gay. I don’t think so.

    Its unfortunate that many people end up at anti-Gay schools like Berry College, Ricks, Samford, Mississippi College, Cumberland, etc. Many of them get pushed there by their parents or they really don’t know how bad the ‘college’ is going to be.

    They should require anti-Gay schools to include the following in all communications..”We are a school that discriminates against Gay students and employees”.

  • Houston Bill

    I think that any school that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation should be held up for serious questioning as to the validity of the education received.

  • Marco Luxe

    From Wikipedia: Past donations from the WinShape [Chick-fil-A] Foundation include the funding of several college scholarships and marriage counseling programs. The foundation has awarded nearly 820 students of BERRY COLLEGE with scholarships of up to $32,000. [$26 million?] WinShape has also given $3 million to anti-gay groups since 2003.

    ML: Money talks

  • greg0425

    What is our reality is these type of crimes(yes crimes) happen more often than we know about. In majority of the cases university/college police and administrator routinely cover up these type of incidents.

    It is imperative we help give all college students a voice. Our SpeakOut Georgia LBGT Anti-Violence Initiative goal is provide the community with a voice to empower, report and track hate crimes, partner violence and bullying. Help us get the word out. We can help each other.

  • Alan

    @Marco Luxe: As I recall, the student-/faculty-run Student Life Council at Berry approved Listen in 2004 but the main obstacle was Truett Cathy’s influence. The president and trustees essentially have to get his permission for big decisions like this.

  • greg0425

    Marco thank you for that info. We were about to send out our press release with a reference to Ms Cathy’s that will help address the issue. thank Alan

  • Ian

    @Mike: Berry College isn’t a “Christian” college. There is a stigma that is attached, but that’s all it is.

  • Ian

    @Houston Bill: Berry College is not anti-Gay. When I attended the school, I was involved in many different aspects of Berry College’s student life and never encountered any anti-gay sentiment. Just because the money supply comes from a source that has that stigma does not mean the college itself reinforces it.

  • Alan

    @Ian: Berry isn’t a Christian school? The Mission and Purpose statement seems pretty Christian to me:

    “Berry College is a comprehensive liberal-arts college with Christian values.”
    “Berry emphasizes an educational program committed to high academic standards, values based on Christian principles…”
    “The college is dedi­­cated to the inter­denomi­national Christian values on which it was founded…”

  • Tulane

    It is a shame that students have to endure this type of behavior at college. Join us as we open the closet door that traditionally keeps students silenced on issues surrounding sexual orientation because of the fear of retaliation. We will talk about stereotypes and sheds some light on the college gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community. This show is dedicated in getting gay students and friends of gay students excited about college by opening the discussion. There is a gay student somewhere sitting in their room looking at a college acceptance letter trying to be excited, but can’t. Support the movement of higher education by having lunch with me and a friend as we discuss making the most out of your campus experience within the gay community. You can listen to the show by visiting on the link below on Sunday, April 22, 2012 @ 12:30 (Eastern Time).

  • ant21988

    First, Berry College is not a Christian College (there is a difference). The difference is that Berry College does not receive any funding from a church. For example, Shorter University is a Christian University that is affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention, and receives funds from them.

    Second, the Winshape program is a separate program, through the students go to Berry and are Berry students. This could have been any school when they were looking for places to have the Winshape program. The Winshape Program has given money to those organizations, Berry did not. The Winshape program does indeed give money to Berry College but Berry did not give money to any of those anti-gay organizations.

    With this said, I am happy as a Berry Alum who is gay and it has been a long time coming.

    Berry College 2011C

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