On Thursday, June 16, the Wagner College community observed a day of mourning for those lost in Sunday’s mass murder in Orlando. That evening, President Richard Guarasci moderated a campus discussion in Foundation Hall’s Manzulli Boardroom, joined by representatives of the Pride Center of Staten Island and the Islamic Civic Association of Staten Island. The discussion was streamed live on the college’s website.
Watch this recording of the complete program:
On June 14, Wagner College issued the following statement:
Early Sunday morning, June 12, a Latin-oriented gay nightclub in Orlando was the target of the most deadly mass shooting in our country’s history. Forty-nine people were murdered. The shooter, a deeply troubled young man, was the American son of immigrants from Afghanistan. Though he was a Muslim, his horrendous act does not appear to have been directed by any "jihadist" organization.
“Although it’s still early in the investigation,” reflected President Obama that morning, “we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate. … Is this the type of society we choose to live in? To do nothing to prevent it is a choice itself.”
The murders, which were committed during LGBT Pride Month, had an immediate impact on members of Wagner College’s gay community.
“It happened in an LGBT safe haven, a nightclub,” wrote Andy Dillon, president of the Iris Alliance, Wagner College’s LGBT student group. “If you are not a member of the LGBT community, you may not realize how historically important gay bars are to us. They are places where all members of the community are always free to be themselves, free from the discrimination faced outside those walls. Well, this morning, the call came from inside the house.”
“We are deeply saddened by this senseless act of violence,” said President Guarasci, “and we express our most sincere condolences to the families and friends of those lost in this horrific incident. The hateful murder of innocents — whether black church members in South Carolina, or young LGBT Americans in Florida — is the result of the hatred of difference, joined by unmitigated access to weapons of mass violence. We must stand together to end this insanity.
“There will be those who seek to find answers by attaching blame; who will want to console some by condemning others,” Guarasci added. “We can’t allow other people’s fears to dictate the tenor of our collective response. As a campus, we will be working to support all of our community as we look for the strength in what remains of a most tragic situation.”
The day of mourning declared for Wagner College this Thursday, followed by the evening discussion and community meal, is consistent with a series of steps Wagner College has taken in recent years to support both LGBT and Muslim members of its community, including Safe Zone workshops held throughout the year and intercultural awareness workshops hosted during new-student orientation.
“The campus community has observed both Coming Out Day and Eid al Adha,” said Curtis Wright, Wagner’s dean of campus life and chief diversity officer. “An interfaith prayer room suitable for Muslim prayers has been created in our chapel, and we are opening the first gender-inclusive community in our student residence halls this fall. But, while we are proud of our efforts, we know there is more work to do.”
On Monday, the flags at Wagner College were lowered to half staff; college officials said that they would remain in that position through Sunday, June 19, in honor of those who lost their lives in Orlando.
“On Thursday, June 16, we invite all members of our community — those who are willing and able — to fast as a symbol of solidarity with those mourning in Orlando as well as our Muslim brothers and sisters, who are observing the holy month of Ramadan,” Wright said. “As we abstain from food or drink, it is our hope that we will reflect on the privileges we enjoy and strengthen our common commitment to creating a beloved community.
“And on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Foundation Hall’s Manzulli Boardroom, we invite the community to attend a campus-wide conversation in partnership with the Pride Center of Staten Island and the Islamic Civic Association of Staten Island,” he added. “Following this very important conversation, we will break our fast together as a community and have dinner.”
If you would like to participate in Thursday evening’s conversation and community meal, please let the college know so that it can be sure to have enough food available. Contact Curtis Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org or 718-390-3423.
More is being planned for later this summer in response to the Orlando murders.
“In late August, during the first week of the new academic year, our Center for Intercultural Advancement will partner with the Iris Alliance to host another event to remember those who died in Orlando and express our community’s hope for an inclusive American future, where all of us are safe and free to be ourselves,” Wright said.
Anyone interested in serving on the planning committee for this event is asked to contact Sidiq Soulemana, assistant director of the Center for Intercultural Advancement, at email@example.com.
Community members in need of support are encouraged to contact:
- Rev. Martin Malzahn, Chaplain and Director of the Center for Religion and Spirituality, firstname.lastname@example.org, 718-390-3281, Kairos House 1st floor
- Ellen Navarro, Director of the Center for Intercultural Advancement, email@example.com, 718-420-4517, Union Building 2nd floor
- Curtis Wright, Dean of Campus Life and Chief Diversity Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org, 718-390-3380, Union Building 2nd floor