By Leo Brine & Jill Leavey
Special to the Chronicle/
Assistant News Editor
Students gathered for a vigil at Liberty Park on Friday, Sept. 22, to speak out and share their feelings about the shooting of Georgia Tech student Scout Schultz. Schultz was the president of the school’s Pride Alliance and identified as bisexual, nonbinary and intersex. Schultz’s death has sparked outrage at Hofstra and other campuses nationwide. The vigil allowed students to express their anguish by writing letters to Georgia Tech’s LGBTQ+ clubs.
The night began with speeches by members of the Hofstra Pride Network. “I look at what happened to Scout Schultz and think that could’ve been me,” said Sarah Dowd, a sophomore public relations and sociology major. Much like other students, her feelings of fear and disturbance were heightened because of similarities with Schultz.
Dowd’s feelings were echoed by other student speakers, many of whom voiced the same sentiments of feeling overlooked by Hofstra. “People of color and minority groups should be recognized … but marginalized people are an afterthought [at Hofstra],” said Ja’Loni Owens, a sophomore public policy major.
Schultz was having a breakdown when they was killed – something that could be prevented. College-aged people often struggle with their mental health, but this struggle can be even harder for members of the LGBTQ+ community. For students who are seeking help, they are encouraged to reach out to on-campus counseling services. Brandon Prosser, a student psychology counseling extern working at the event, said “the counseling center is open every Monday through Friday. You don’t need an appointment.”
Students proposed solutions that the Hofstra community and administration should implement in order to ensure tragedies such as this are prevented. Several speakers called for Hofstra to change the current policies relating to student access to mental health resources on campus. They described personal experiences when they felt the university has fallen short.
Owens, along with other vigil attendees do not think that Hofstra is properly equipped to handle mentally at-risk students. “There’s a lot of mental health issues from being in a marginalized community, if [students] do have a tragedy they don’t feel supported … and a lot of students wait until it’s unmanageable,” Owens said.
Aside from improving the quality of campus counseling services, students mentioned other ways in which the campus can work toward being more supportive to at-risk individuals. “I think that extending a hand is a big help,” said Serena Payne, a sophomore psychology major. Payne added that hiring more faculty and staff who identify as LGBTQ+ is imperative, as doing so would allow for students to receive advice from people who have gone through similar experiences.
For Hofstra students who are unaware of the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community and are inclined to serve as a better ally, Dowd suggested they should take the initiative and join any of the Pride Network’s organizations. “Try to be active. Try to talk to people. Try to educate yourself and that would definitely help to re-humanize the LGBT community,” Dowd said.
The night concluded with an emotional moment of silence as students reflected on the events that transpired Sept. 16.