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Council Member Receives Hate Mail

By Ariel R. Frank

A member of the Undergraduate Council who opposed the bill recommending that the University's non-discrimination policy and the council's constitution be amended to include "transgendered" persons found a hate letter outside the door of his Lowell House suite Thursday.

Stephen J. Mitby '99, one of several speakers against the bill, received an anonymous letter addressed to him four days after the debate on the council floor.

"Your bigoted and hateful words against transgendered persons disgust me," the letter states. "If you think you've heard nasty things over e-mail, you ain't seen nothing yet!"

"You are no better than Hitler," it continues. "Fuck you you jackbooted Nazi thug."

A swastika drawn in blue ink was written underneath the typed words.

Mitby said he was surprised to receive the letter, because he believed the views he expressed during the debate were moderate. He said he opposed the bill on scientific grounds.

"I am against the bill because mainstream psychological opinion considers transgenderism a mental illness," Mitby said. "It would be wrong for the University to recognize in a non-discrimination clause a lifestyle that is generally detrimental."

But some council members said they believed Mitby's speech was offensive to "transgendered" persons.

Marco B. Simons '97, a sponsor of the bill, said the part of Mitby's speech that offended some council members was when Mitby referred to Alex S. Myers '00 as a female.

Myers is a biological female who identifies himself as a man.

"Many people were clearly very offended by this and [Mark A. Price '98, the council's vice president] asked him to use more appropriate language," Simons said.

Mitby, who said he did not know what the proper protocol was for referring to Myers, switched and began using "he" for the remainder of the speech.

Myers said the letter itself was discriminatory, adding that he and Mitby have communicated since the debate and have "reached common ground."

Although Myers said he was personally offended by Mitby's speech, he accepted that it was in the context of a political debate.

"He claimed responsibility for his own comments, which I respect," Myers said. "He was in the minority and he stood up and said what he believed and personally took credit for it. An anonymous note in much more vulgar language is neither a fair nor productive response to Mitby's stance."

Myers took particular issue with the letter's reference to Hitler.

"It's certainly not a valid comparison, and as a Jew I say that with my whole heart," he said. "Comparing Stephen Mitby to a man who murdered six million people is hardly valid."

According to Mitby, the writer of the letter knew about the discussion that has been going on throughout the week on the council's e-mail posting list. The e-mail list can be accessed anonymously through a newsgroup.

Mitby and Simons both said the letter does not represent the character of the debate on the council floor and on e-mail.

John J. Appelbaum '97, a member of the council who also opposed and voted against bill, said he had hoped the debate would remain civil and that people would be tolerant of differing opinions.

"It's an ill-considered and rash measure," he said.

"[The people who wrote the letter] are basically more intolerant than anybody else because they refuse to grant people who have more conservative ideas the right to disagree with them," Appelbaum added.

Mitby said he does not plan to let the letter intimidate him.

"I will not be deterred from expressing my views by a lunatic. I don't fear for my physical safety in any way," he added, terming the letter "cowardly."

Simons said he is concerned for Mitby's safety. Mitby informed two tutors in Lowell House about the letter.

Lamelle D. Rawlins '99, the president of the council, said she hopes the letter will be an isolated incident.

"There is a lot at stake here and that's why it's important to stay focused on the issue at hand," she said

"I am against the bill because mainstream psychological opinion considers transgenderism a mental illness," Mitby said. "It would be wrong for the University to recognize in a non-discrimination clause a lifestyle that is generally detrimental."

But some council members said they believed Mitby's speech was offensive to "transgendered" persons.

Marco B. Simons '97, a sponsor of the bill, said the part of Mitby's speech that offended some council members was when Mitby referred to Alex S. Myers '00 as a female.

Myers is a biological female who identifies himself as a man.

"Many people were clearly very offended by this and [Mark A. Price '98, the council's vice president] asked him to use more appropriate language," Simons said.

Mitby, who said he did not know what the proper protocol was for referring to Myers, switched and began using "he" for the remainder of the speech.

Myers said the letter itself was discriminatory, adding that he and Mitby have communicated since the debate and have "reached common ground."

Although Myers said he was personally offended by Mitby's speech, he accepted that it was in the context of a political debate.

"He claimed responsibility for his own comments, which I respect," Myers said. "He was in the minority and he stood up and said what he believed and personally took credit for it. An anonymous note in much more vulgar language is neither a fair nor productive response to Mitby's stance."

Myers took particular issue with the letter's reference to Hitler.

"It's certainly not a valid comparison, and as a Jew I say that with my whole heart," he said. "Comparing Stephen Mitby to a man who murdered six million people is hardly valid."

According to Mitby, the writer of the letter knew about the discussion that has been going on throughout the week on the council's e-mail posting list. The e-mail list can be accessed anonymously through a newsgroup.

Mitby and Simons both said the letter does not represent the character of the debate on the council floor and on e-mail.

John J. Appelbaum '97, a member of the council who also opposed and voted against bill, said he had hoped the debate would remain civil and that people would be tolerant of differing opinions.

"It's an ill-considered and rash measure," he said.

"[The people who wrote the letter] are basically more intolerant than anybody else because they refuse to grant people who have more conservative ideas the right to disagree with them," Appelbaum added.

Mitby said he does not plan to let the letter intimidate him.

"I will not be deterred from expressing my views by a lunatic. I don't fear for my physical safety in any way," he added, terming the letter "cowardly."

Simons said he is concerned for Mitby's safety. Mitby informed two tutors in Lowell House about the letter.

Lamelle D. Rawlins '99, the president of the council, said she hopes the letter will be an isolated incident.

"There is a lot at stake here and that's why it's important to stay focused on the issue at hand," she said

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