A gay student at the Australian National University in Canberra was forced to leave his dormitory after someone sent him homophobic, threatening letters over several months.
ABC News reported that after the first-year student moved into the ANU college, Ursula Hall, at the beginning of last year, the vandal scrawled “faggot” repeatedly across the door of his dorm room.
The student approached the head of the college and a letter was given to residents saying if the perpetrator of the abuse was caught they would be evicted.
But he said the abuse continued and over several months he received threatening letters under the door of his room, containing physical threats and gay slurs.
“I’d go to the bathroom and someone would swipe letters under my door saying ‘leave or I’ll f—ing bash you,'” he told the ABC.
The student said he began living with his then-boyfriend out of fear, before requesting to be moved from Ursula Hall after the writer of the letters could not be identified.
“The college’s response was the same: release a letter, have a little chat at dinner, nothing really fundamental,” he said.
“I don’t really care if someone’s calling me a fag — words are words — but when someone’s putting out threats to me and my safety, especially at college … make a more proactive initiative.”
The student said he was frustrated that he felt that it was his responsibility to resolve the issue.
“I love this university, the university in itself I really enjoy … I don’t think [the incident] is reflective of the whole community,” he said.
“It’s just the fact of the matter is the onus should be on the college to fix the issue.”
In a statement to the ABC, the ANU apologised and said it was deeply saddened by the harassment.
“We offer an unreserved apology for any distress caused to the student as a result of the offensive behaviour of another student,” the statement read.
“It is unacceptable to us that a student has felt victimised and harassed in their own home environment.”
ANU provost Mike Carlford conceded it would be difficult to assure other LGBTIQ students at Ursula Hall that they would not also be harassed.
“As we understand there hasn’t been any further incidents, but it would be very hard for me to give a blanket confidence there, as the perpetrator was not identified,” he said.
He said the university was taking the incident seriously and was reviewing its policies and procedures in light of the abuse, and said the university “hopes to get better in this area through doing that.”
The ANU Student Association’s queer* officer, Matthew Mottola, said moving the victim instead of the perpetrator was a disappointing resolution.
“I think that first of all finding out who is doing this would be the first priority, and to remove them from the situation, as opposed to having the victim be removed,” he told the ABC.
“It often seems that it’s just left up to students to change the culture and to do the work the university isn’t doing.
“The fact that such vile things are still happening … shows that the fight is still not over for queer people.”