Despite vandalism and threats, forum will take place

by Jessica Thompson

Despite hostility and threats of violence toward the event’s host, “An Open Forum on Racism, Sexism, and Homophobia in America Today” is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. today in the Hubert H. Humphrey Business Center.
The free event features speakers from various University student organizations to discuss prejudice and how it can be combatted in the 21st century.
“This is an opportunity for people to give a voice to their communities, to look at how racism, sexism, and homophobia relate, and to discuss what we can do to combat these issues,” said theater senior and event host William Konstan.
Konstan said the forum developed from a broader plan to write a play about minority experiences.
“I asked myself if I had the right to talk about other communities, and I decided the answer was no,” he said. “I wanted to get the stories from their mouths.”
Konstan said, as a gay student he personally understands how it feels to be oppressed and ridiculed. Still, he said he was surprised that the event produced such an overt backlash.
He said he has received two threatening phone calls and has been confronted while putting up posters for the event on campus. He added that most of the posters have subsequently been torn down.
“I expected there to be people who have beliefs that do not coalesce with those of the student organizations,” he said. “But I was surprised people were so overtly hostile, and that they chose such an immature and inappropriate way to express their feelings.”
Konstan has hired security as a precautionary measure, but said he anticipates the event to be relatively calm.
“The fact that some people think I shouldn’t be doing this makes me more confident in carrying it out,” Konstan said. “This forum is for these people, as well as the people their hate is directed toward.”
The event will begin with speakers from the La Raza, Africana, Queer, Asian-American, and American Indian student cultural centers, and the University Young Women organization.
Presentations will be followed by an open discussion period hosted by Konstan.
The host said he encourages anyone with opinions on prejudice to attend the forum.

Jessica Thompson welcomes comments at [email protected]