April 20th was the Day of Silence, a national day of action that protests the bullying and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered (LGBT) students and their supporters. It also was the third year in a row at Bryant that posters for events on the Day of Silence were ripped down.
Jeff Sheng, photographer of Fearless, which documents high school and collegiate athletes who openly self-identify as LGBT, had his exhibit on display in the Bryant Center last week. It remained there until Friday, or it would have had it not been torn down.
Jeff Sheng’s exhibit consisted of large print laminated photography of openly LGBT athletes. They were placed along the Bryant Center stairwell. One person, or several people, took the time to rip down all but one of the posters. It is confirmed that facilities did not take down the posters, nor were there plans to take them down early on in the day. The photos have not been found and this act is considered larceny.
This is the only school where this has happened out of the around sixty that Jeff Sheng has exhibited at. The only other similar incident occurred at another university in the Northeast. Two photos were taken. It was later found at said university that the student that took the photos thought that the players were hot.
Applied Psychology Professor Nanci Weinberger, was the main organizer behind bringing the Fearless Exhibit to Bryant. It was sponsored by Academic Affairs, the Women’s center, and was co-sponsored by several other organizations on campus.
“Despite this incident, Jeff Sheng felt good about our school. This act did not get in the way of his opinion of the school,” said Weinberger of the incident.
Sara Elder, President-elect of Bryant Pride does not believe that the theft of the Fearless exhibit is representative of the entire Bryant community.
“This is only a tiny part of Bryant; only a small group did this. This shouldn’t and doesn’t represent Bryant as a whole. Our school has done so much already to make the campus inclusive with the new GLBTQ Center and a gender neutral housing option starting in the fall.”
Toby Simon, director of the University’s Gertrude Meth Hochberg Women’s Center, commented on the incident as well.
“I think it’s a real mystery as to why someone or some people chose to steal these pictures. My immediate reaction is that the subject matter must’ve offended someone and this person’s way of dealing with it was to take it upon himself or herself to remove the artwork. The significance for me is that it happened on the last day of the art exhibit, on the day Jeff Sheng was speaking on campus, and that it was dealing with sexual orientation and college athletes. We’ll probably never know who the coward was behind this act, but it certainly is a shame that this one act of desperation has painted an otherwise wonderful campus event.”
Toby Simon and Rich Hurley, Office of Campus Engagement, have organized a Bryant is Fearless exhibit to be placed exactly where Jeff Sheng’s were ripped down. This exhibit is meant to reclaim the space that was violated by the theft of the Fearless pictures. After exhibiting in the Bryant Center, the Bryant is Fearless project will be put on permanent display.
Professor Thomas Bassett, lecturer in the Department of English and Cultural Studies, is the mind behind the Bryant is Fearless project.
“The Bryant is Fearless project is an act of inclusion in response to an act of exclusion. When Sheng’s pictures were stolen, the perpetrators, intentionally or not, conveyed a message of disrespect toward the LGBTQ members of the Bryant community. I wanted Bryant to not only denounce such forms of violence in words; I wanted to do something that would embody the values this university is committed to: respect, inclusion, and affirmation. These pictures, of LGBTQ students, staff, and faculty, along with their straight allies, will remind anyone who sees them that is what Bryant is really about,” said Bassett of the project.
If you know anything about this crime, please contact the Department of Public Safety.