CLEVELAND - Growing backlash about anti-LGBTQ fliers at Cleveland State University has resulted in heated controversy about freedom of speech and caused the university president to admit a "failure of personal outrage" about his initial response.
The fliers show a man hanging from a noose, surrounded by inaccurate facts regarding LGBTQ suicide. The flier reads "Follow your fellow [expletive]," above the image of the man.
"The man's arms were bound behind his back," said CSU student John Mark Strahan. "You cannot hang yourself with your arms tied behind your back. So he was lynched."
Strahan identifies himself as a gay man and says the fliers are not only sinister but the initial response from the university was hurtful too.
"It is a learning institution so let's use this an example, they're missing a huge opportunity to really set a standard here," said Strahan.
Tuesday, CSU President Ronald Berkman issued a new message to students and faculty that read in part, "While I find the message of this poster reprehensible, the current legal framework regarding free speech makes it difficult to prevent these messages from being disseminated. However, let me make it clear that I am committed to promoting a safe and inclusive campus for all members of our community."
The statement comes after an email was sent to students Monday citing free speech. Some students argue the initial response did not specifically address the issue.
The fliers were posted across campus and appear to be affiliated with the group Fascist Solutions.
"Every single time the LGBTQ community takes one step there's another group that wants to show us that who we are is not welcomed," said Eris Eady, the Program Director of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland.
Students tell Fox 8 the fliers were posted on National Coming Out Day, the same day the new campus LGBTQ center opened Thursday.
The university president is inviting students and faculty to join him Wednesday at 2 p.m. in the Main Classroom Auditorium to discuss concerns. Anyone unable to attend is encouraged to email: firstname.lastname@example.org