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Turmoil for LGBTQIA+ Students at Illinois State University

Written by on October 31, 2022

Photo provided by Jakai Martin 

NORMAL, Ill. – Illinois State University is built upon seven core values: learning and scholarship, individualized attention, diversity and inclusion, civic engagement, respect, integrity, and collaboration. Multiple of these values have been disregarded within recent memory and ISU is now facing backlash by students in light of events involving homophobia on campus.

On Wednesday September 28th, 2023, members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity were accused of spray painting homophobic slurs onto the property of multiple Greek houses. Tri Sigma, Alpha Sigma, and Acacia were all confirmed to have been a part of what was an alleged hazing ritual.

The interfraternity council released a statement on October 10th over Instagram to apologize, reporting “This act was not at all a fraternity sponsored event and has nothing to do with the education of our new members or our initiation rituals.” 

On Saturday, October 15th, Jakai Martin, a junior at Illinois State University, was assaulted on campus. Martin recounted being verbally and physically harassed by another male student.

ISU administration broke their silence on Monday, October 17th, when a mass email was sent out to students. The email, titled “A message from President Kinzy” included a video just under two minutes of ISU President Terri Goss Kinzy. 

In her message, President Kinzy encouraged students to recommit to the university’s core values, touched on concerns regarding recent homophobic events, and advised seeking counseling through the university for those who were impacted. 

“Every member of Illinois State University carries the responsibility of fostering an environment of respect and care that is integral to learning and growing,” said President Kinzy.

Despite this, many students felt that President Kinzy’s response was apathetic towards the subject matter. Martin argued that her response seemed vague, only mentioning the LGBTQIA+ once within the video. Others commented that it all sounded too scripted.

In light of these events, Martin joined a panel discussion hosted by the ISU Student Government Association to voice his concerns.

Martin is calling on the university to provide more counselors at the student counseling services, asking for a designated LGBTQIA+ safe space on campus, and a public apology from president Kinzy for, “failing to demonstrate a clear stance on what core values were neglected as well as her lack of support for queer students at Illinois State University.”

Patrick Walsh, Student Body President of the Student Government Association, shared his disapproval of these actions.

“My initial reaction was absolute disappointment and anger,” said Walsh. Hate has no place on this campus. As Student Body President, one of my main responsibilities is ensuring campus safety for all students. One of the most important things for every student from every community [is] to have a physical voice with a vote. One of the things that can always be worked towards is always increasing communication from student government to students on the issues that are inherently present within the student body. By knowing those we can highlight any potential issues, any potential points where students need to feel more safe and work towards remedying those immediately.”