In higher education, we place value on creating a safe space. We want our classrooms to be places where it is safe to discuss emotionally charged topics. We want our counseling offices to be places where students can share sensitive matters. We want every office and hallway, every point of service to be a place where students, faculty and staff are safe to be their authentic selves, not having to check any part of their identity at the door.
In the heart-breaking interviews with survivors of the November 19, hate-motivated shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, people spoke of the betrayal of having their safe space, the only LGBTQ establishment in town and for many miles around, become a crime scene where five people were murdered by a man wielding an AR-15 automatic rifle and a handgun.
For some, it triggered memories of the June 2016 mass shooting in an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida that killed 49 people. For some, it brought up the recent trauma of hearing political leaders spew homophobic hate speech in campaign forums. The healing in Colorado had barely begun, when six employees were murdered a few days later in a mass shooting at a Walmart near Norfolk, Virginia. Meanwhile, hate crimes against Asian Americans have continued to surge in New York City and around the country. Antisemitic incidents such as a recent bomb threat and swastikas spray painted on the Wall Street Charging Bull statue, are on the rise.
In a world where violence, both spoken and enacted, looms on a daily basis, BMCC’s commitment to being a safe space is more of a bedrock priority than ever. Inclusivity is part of our institutional DNA. Equity is front and center of our mission, our strategic plan, our services, our heritage months and celebrations. We recently marked the opening of the BMCC Pride Center, joined by our Multicultural Center and Women’s Resource Center. These important resource and support hubs are among the inaugural wave of initiatives funded by the President’s Fund for Excellence and Innovation at BMCC.
We continue to explore how to honor the diversity of our community, a charge embraced by the BMCC Race, Equity and Inclusion (REI) Steering Committee, which is planning concrete actions to address the hate crimes and violence weighing heavily on us all. I encourage you to reach out to them with your concerns, at REI@bmcc.cuny.edu. If you want to share your thoughts and feelings in a supportive discussion of the Club Q shooting and other incidents including the recent violence against a Muslim woman at Union Square, I encourage you to join a community circle zoom event set for today, Thursday, December 8 at 5 p.m. and facilitated by the BMCC Social Justice and Equity Centers, and Counseling Center.
In fact, if at any time, you feel uncomfortable in your experience at BMCC, I urge you to speak out. You will be heard. You can visit our Office of Compliance and Diversity at 199 Chambers Street, Room S-735, or email Odelia Levy, Chief Diversity Officer, at OLevy@bmcc.cuny.edu. If you ever feel physically unsafe on campus, you can reach out to BMCC Public Safety at (212) 220-8080, call 911 or use one of the blue call boxesplaced around campus to assist you in getting help. Professional staff at the BMCC Counseling Center are also ready to help you talk through any issues you may have.
In interviews that followed the horrific Colorado mass shooting at Club Q, a survivor said, “This is where we’re safe. For many of us, it’s the only place.” I know that the assumption of safety is a luxury not everyone shares, and I am committed to ensuring that BMCC is a safe space for every member of our community.
Anthony E. Munroe
President, Borough of Manhattan Community College