David Aguiar, a resident advisor in the Riverview Suites, wanted to focus on promoting diversity on his floor’s bulletin board due to the recent divisive election, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History month.
To his astonishment on Friday, Jan 20, Aguiar discovered vandalism in the form of hate speech on his resident advisor team’s initiative.
Aguiar and his team of RA’s wanted to proudly display their floor’s diversity and decided to “create a tea cup, and call it the DiversiTEA Cup in which residents would have the opportunity to write their identities on a tea bag,” Aguiar said. It was not long before Aguiar returned to the newly designed bulletin board and found an anti-LGBTQ+ slur written on one of the tea bags.
Specifically, the slur targeted the gay community, and Aguiar said, “This did make me extremely upset, because I, myself, identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and for a resident to write that really struck a chord with me.”
Aguiar responded to the vandalism with a powerful Facebook post by saying “If you think [the hate speech] is going to tear me or others down, you have another thing coming… There is nothing wrong with me. I will never stop being who I am.”
Aguiar is now promoting the student body to be more open and accepting to everyone at the university. His hope is that students, faculty, and staff take a stand for unjustice and realize words can hurt.
The response to Aguiar’s Facebook post was positive and healing for him, he said
“I received tremendous support from much of my friends on campus via Facebook, text messages and in person. I also received support from my own residents living on floor four in Riverview.” Aguiar said he wants students to know that the support was representative of his experience here at UMass Lowell.
He says that he has had a great support system through several administrations at the university and through student clubs as well. Despite this incident, he still actively believes the university is a diverse and accepting place.
But, Aguiar knows that the job is not done. Aguiar is working with the Office of Multicultural Affairs to create an LGBTQ+ Resources Office to serve members of the student body that identify with the LGBTQ+ community. Aguiar said, “The staff [at Office of Multicultural Affairs] have been super supportive in trying to make this happen… I’ve been lucky enough to attend a university where these positives are out weighing the negatives.”
Aguiar wants to address the student body by saying “Regardless of your sexual orientation, gender, race, religious beliefs, class, and disability, you are valued and loved. You are wanted. ‘Stay Fearless.’ – Joe Di Mauro, Mr. Gay Rhode Island.”