Abrams said the Berry College Police Department labeled the incident a hate crime and is investigating the crime alone.

“Our victim has given us a suspect also, but it’s been hard to pin down. The investigation is still pending. We’ve kind of hit a dead end,” Abrams added.

In an interview with the Berry College campus newspaper, the victim said, “Racially, it’s upsetting that someone hates me for who I am. Sexually, it’s upsetting that someone hates me for who they think I am.”

The crime sparked a Change.org petition to ask officials with the Christian liberal arts school to officially recognize an LGBT campus group. An April 17 meeting with faculty and administrators about LISTEN, the LGBT group that has been an unofficial presence on campus for many years, went well, according to students and faculty who posted their assessments of the meeting to websites. Further discussion is expected to take place over the summer.

Students and faculty declined to comment for this story. But after the April 17 meeting, Dr. Jeffrey Lidke, associate professor of Religion & Philosophy, posted his thoughts of the meeting on LISTEN group’s Tumblr page, saying “there was much reason to be optimistic.”

“[President Stephen Briggs] has proposed that a committee be formed that will meet over the summer to look at a host of issues associated with the recognition of LISTEN and to plan to discuss those conversations with the larger campus community early in the fall with the desired aim of official approval, sooner than later.

“I cannot over-emphasize how important it is that we all continue to embrace and approach this opportunity with respect, calm and wisdom. This is not a battle. This is a community dialogue. We are not all going to agree, but we can all listen to each other and if we do, then, in the end, I am highly optimistic that LISTEN will be officially approved. This is not a guarantee. It is just a statement of the fact that the President himself is clearly open to, and perhaps even desirous of, an outcome that has that result.

Lidke encouraged LISTEN supporters to “be patient and thoughtful.”

“Let us be willing to listen and respect others just as we thoughtfully articulate — and deserve respect for — our own views,” he said. “All is and will be good. This is my prayer and conviction.”

A Facebook invitation for a LISTEN social event on campus was posted this week seeking more signatures for the petition that had nearly 1,200 names as of press time April 24. Student enrollment of undergraduate and graduate students is approximately 2,000.

 

Top photo: Students at Berry College hope the Rome, Ga., campus will soon officially recognize an LGBT group. (via www.berry.edu)

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