To the editor:

This is an open letter to Mayor Kim Driscoll, City Council representatives and representatives-elect, Salem State University President John Keenan and Trustee Chair Rob Lutts.

As members of the LGBTQ+ Action Committee for the Salem Public Schools, we write to express our deep concern for the Salem State University community in light of the recent homophobic and politically insensitive demonstrations held on campus by noted agitator Chike Uzuegbunam.

We recognize that as a public institution, SSU cannot ban Uzuegbunam’s access to campus or restrict his hateful speech; however, we urge university and city leadership to be vocal and proactive in its support for the LGBTQ+ community members both on campus and in the Salem community more broadly in response to these demonstrations.

We call on each of you to use your public platforms immediately to affirm your support for SSU LGBTQ+ community members. This does not require any denunciation or even recognition of Uzuegbunam’s presence on campus (as this acknowledgement is certainly his primary objective), but rather a sincere assertion of allyship with and support for our own community members. To be more pointed, this is not the time for university and community leaders to educate the SSU community on the significance of First Amendment rights, but to demonstrate unequivocal, full-throated support for its LGBTQ+ members.

To do this, the LGBTQ+ Action Committee for the Salem Public Schools recommends:

That Trustee Lutts write an email to the SSU community at large voicing his recognition and support for the LGBTQ+ community both on and off campus;

That university leadership meet with community groups including the North Shore Alliance for LGBTQ+ Youth (NAGLY) and Salem’s No Place for Hate Committee in conjunction with the SSU Alliance to help with the development of long-term support strategies for LGBTQ+ community members on campus;

That President Keenan continues to voice his support for SSU LGBTQ+ students at large and recognizes and celebrates their ongoing contributions to the Salem State University community;

That university leadership meet with LGBTQ+ students, faculty, staff, and the SSU Alliance and their allies to develop strategies for protecting the mental and physical health of community members in the face of hateful or disruptive demonstrations;

That Mayor Driscoll publicly reaffirms the city’s commitment to equity and inclusion, citing the SSU LGBTQ+ community specifically; and

That the City Council enter into the public record its support for SSU LGBTQ+ community members.

The LGBTQ+ Action Committee for the Salem Public Schools is eager to lend resources and community support to all efforts to protect the SSU LGBTQ+ community from the fear and anxiety caused by hate speech on campus. We look forward to hearing how each of you plans to meet this important moment.

SPS LGBTQ+ Action Committee

Liz Polay-Wettengel, Chief of Public Relations, Salem Public Schools

Molly Robinson, Supervisor of SEL and Wellness, Salem Public Schools

Adam Colantuoni, Executive Director of Student Services and Family Supports, Salem Public Schools

Laura Assade, Family Engagement Manager, Salem Public Schools

Dr. Charlene Moske-Weber PhD RN NCSN, Director of Nursing and Health Services, Salem Public Schools

Jenna Cripps, Dean of Operations and School Culture, Bentley Academy Innovation School

Beth Anne Cornell, Incoming School Committee representative

Alexis Dwyer, LGBTQ youth parent representative

AJ Hoffman, LGBTQ youth parent representative

Catherine Bertrand, LGBTQ youth parent representative

Matthew Smith, LGBTQ youth parent representative

Kristin Pangallo, Ph.D., associate professor, SSU Department of Chemistry and Physics, and School Committee member

And signed on by:

Manny Cruz, School Committee member

Mary Manning, School Committee member

Dr. Stephen Zrike Jr., Superintendent of Salem Public Schools

Kate Carbone, Deputy Superintendent of Salem Public Schools

Mary DeLai, Assistant Superintendent, Finance and Employee Engagement, Salem Public Schools

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