Shock spread through campus as student Daniel Dahlinger, junior engineering science major, shared how someone had keyed a homophobic slur into his car. The event most likely happened on Thursday, Oct. 19, while Dahlinger’s car had been parked in the City Vista parking garage.
“Friday morning last week I got off work, and I realized that I had my fraternity letters keyed into my car,” said Dahlinger, a member of Omega Phi. “I walked around my car and looked at the other side and was greeted with a not-so-nice word on the other side.”
Dahlinger posted about the incident over the following weekend on the student-run closed Facebook group, Overheard at Trinity. Many students responded, showing him their support.
“Whenever I made my posts on Overheard, I just had a few texts,” Dahlinger said. “By the end of the day, I had been reached out to personally by over 20 people, letting me know that they cared, including some other Greek organization members from different fraternities and sororities saying that’s not in their values.”
In addition to the personal responses Dahlinger has received, campus organizations have also responded to the event. PRIDE, the student organization centered around support for LGBTQ students, will have a general meeting on Nov. 16 for those students who wish to speak about it.
“I am very disappointed [by the vandalism], as both a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and a Trinity student. Whatever the motivations of the vandal, the keying signals a lack of respect for our community and for personal property,” wrote Chiara Pride, sophomore and PRIDE’s activism and outreach chair, in an email interview. “As a member of PRIDE, I sincerely hope that our membership does not internalize the hate that slurs confer, and instead uses this incident to rally together as a community with joy and creativity.”
In addition to PRIDE’s responses, several other student leaders on campus have condemned this behavior, including Nick Santulli, senior political science major and president of Student Government Association.
“That behavior is clearly unacceptable, especially considering the content of the slur. I think that, at Trinity, we strive to be a community that’s welcoming, friendly and inclusive, and I think this runs counter to that,” Santulli said. “I think the administration should respond strongly, just to reiterate Trinity’s values of warmth and inclusion and to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.”
Immediately following the event, the administration reached out to Dahlinger. Sheryl Tynes, professor of sociology and associate vice president for academic affairs, personally contacted him to show his support.
“After it happened on a Thursday night and was posted on Facebook, and I heard about it and called the student to see if he was okay — just to talk to him about what he knew about it — and conveyed to him that it is entirely unacceptable from my vantage point,” Tynes said. “To be living on campus is a privilege for students; I think that if people will do that to other students, there should be accountability.”
Other members of the administration similarly denounced the vandalism, stressing the values that Trinity hopes to uphold.
“I think it’s concerning on multiple levels. It’s concerning that someone would vandalize another person’s car; it’s concerning that they seemed to know who this person was and that they were in a specific organization so that it was targeted. And then, the homophobic slur is concerning because that’s not how we should be, or what we should be about,” said David Tuttle, dean of students. “The university is concerned about anything like that that happens. We should be a welcoming university, and we shouldn’t reduce people to slurs. … It’s disrespectful to the entire Trinity community.”
While the Trinity University Police Department (TUPD) is currently investigating the incident, neither Tynes nor Tuttle could comment on their progress. According to Tynes, TUPD has been reviewing footage from the parking garage in an attempt to get more information.
In the week following the event, Danny Anderson, president of the university, also sent out a statement concerning this and several other incidents that have targeted underrepresented groups.
“I ask you to think about the ‘bystander intervention’ skills more broadly, beyond the sexual assault scenarios they are designed to address,” Anderson wrote. “In its simplest form, bystander intervention does two things. First, it asks us each to become aware of the well-being of everyone around us — to observe, to listen and to be sensitive to situations that seem off balance and could leave someone vulnerable. Second, it asks us to each imagine ways that we can change the dynamics of the situation, usually by speaking up and adding a new and unexpected element to the scenario. … We all need each other to be strong as a community.”
Those with any information concerning any of these incidents are encouraged to report them to TUPD, who may be reached at their non-emergency line at (210) 999-7070.