FORT MYERS, Fla. - A protest at Florida Gulf Coast University's Veterans Pavilion Thursday to oppose hate messages was a final project for a whole class called "Rhetoric of Social Movements."
Students made various presentations during the event, called "Soar Above Hate." One student sang songs about overcoming oppression - including "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera. Another performed an interpretive dance, while other students spoke about their experiences in dealing with discrimination.
Student Michael Rybak said that the hate messages found on campus during the academic year - such as the words "Kill The N-----" and "Noose-Tying 101" found on dry-erase whiteboards last fall - made the protest more meaningful.
"I might not be oppressed specifically as a homosexual individual," said Rybak, who is white. "I still feel as if I'm oppressed because I'm part of a minority group, and minority groups are being oppressed."
Student Natoya Lambert, who read aloud from the poem "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou during the event, wonders if enrollment at FGCU could be affected in the wake of the whiteboard messages.
"I do fear that maybe minorities won't want to come here after hearing about it," Lambert said. "But I think if you just come on our campus and take a tour and see it, you'll think differently."
Enrollment has steadily increased at FGCU over the past several years, including among minorities.