Photo by Calyse Tobias
Photo by Calyse Tobias

First-year Carla Estrada was assaulted because of her queer identity on Nov. 11.

Estrada reported to UCSC Police Department (UCSC PD) that she was assaulted by three, currently unidentified, male suspects. The men followed Estrada on a footpath northwest of Quarry Amphitheater yelling homophobic slurs, then struck her head with a rock outside of the College Ten tunnel.

“It’s something that I never thought would happen to me, and it’s just scary to think that they’re still out there,” Estrada said.

According to the UCSC definition, a hate crime is an infraction against an individual of a protected class including disability, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, race or ethnicity and religion, because of their identity or perceived identity.

UCSC PD Chief Nader Oweis said besides the hate crime committed at Kresge College because of the victim’s sexual orientation, he said he hasn’t seen anything like this in the past five years.

“I have no information that leads us to believe that this was motivated by the election at this time,” Oweis said.

Estrada said the safety she felt being part of the LGBTQIA+ community and the new trans-inclusive housing before the hate crime has since been violated. The incident took place three days after the election, and Estrada doesn’t think it’s a coincidence.

“I think that [the suspects] may have been influenced by the fact that they now can voice their thoughts more openly and take action in what they believe in,” Estrada said. Although the event was scary, she said she won’t let it be a barrier for her and her community.

“It just goes to show how many people are racist and homophobic, and how they feel like they need to voice their thoughts by doing stuff like jumping LGBT people and doing and saying homophobic slurs and such,” she said.

As a result of the hate crime, members of the LGBTQIA+ community on have expressed concern for their personal security and for the safety of their community.

“As a woman of color, as a gay woman of color, I didn’t know that it was gonna hit so close to home,” said fourth-year student Ana Lujan. “The fact that it hurts, that it’s within the community, somebody in our community is like hurting folk, and it’s angering, it’s frustrating, it’s sad.”

In response to the hate crime Travis Becker, director of the Lionel Cantú Queer Center, organized a town hall meeting with Chancellor George Blumenthal. At the meeting on Nov. 22, students of the queer and trans community were able to express their feelings and ideas about LGBTQIA+ safety in response to the hate crime.

“I need people to know that we should be stronger and not let this set us back,” Estrada said.

The Community Responds

About 25 students attended and voiced their concerns to Chancellor George Blumenthal and Herbie Lee, vice provost for academic affairs and diversity and interim executive vice chancellor/campus provost, regarding LGBTQIA+ issues on campus — especially the university’s responses to the presidential election results, the hate crime on campus and the safety of queer students.

“I’m interested in being here tonight, so that I can hear some of the issues that raise concern to you,” Blumenthal said to the students. “[I want] to learn ways that we in the administration can be of help to you as students.”

Students brought up gaps they saw in how the administration addresses and handles LGBTQIA+ issues, like reporting hate crimes, faculty microaggressions, LGBTQIA+ safety and the police and mandated incident reports.

“I feel the way that [Blumenthal] thinks about these issues are one-sided or very flat, and so the fact that these students came out to challenge him was really wonderful,” said attendee and fourth-year student Ana Lujan.

Students emphasized the need for the university to reach out to marginalized communities to see where their needs lie before incidents like hate crimes happen. Blumenthal said he will explore many of the suggestions made, but he probably won’t follow up on “every suggestion that was made.”

“I think that he should have probably done more. He should have been more proactive from the get go, and an email sent out is not enough,” Lujan said.

Students suggested mandating faculty certificate programs on allyship, expanding Campus Advocacy Resources and Education (CARE) to include LGBTQIA+ counseling and having crisis responders who have no enforcement responsibility to support students who don’t feel safe around police.

“I hope the energy continues beyond this to hold the administration accountable,” a student said to conclude the town hall meeting. “Just because we sat here for an hour and a half doesn’t mean anything’s going to be accomplished unless we follow it up with action.”