Anti-discrimination forums draw hundreds at VCU

By Gene Petriello - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Hundreds of people attend several forums set today with a purpose to help raise awareness for keeping anti-discrimination policies at public schools in Virginia, especially when it comes to sexual orientation.

Emotions ran high and many questions were asked inside the walls of the student commons building. Although our cameras were not allowed inside, the sense of unity could be felt campus wide.

"It's kind of sad that we have to have this conversation," says VCU graduate student Luke Schlimme.

But like many of his peers, Luke stood up and took a stand. He's glad to know VCU has a commitment to providing a non discriminatory environment for employees students and guests right now.

"As the biggest university in Virginia, I'm glad to see VCU makes that stance," says Luke. Now, some are calling for VCU to renew that stance.

But, if Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has his way, things would be different, saying the choice to allow anti-discrimination policies lie in the hands of lawmakers.

"It seems like Virginia is taking two huge steps backwards and I worry about the implications for not only VCU, but the State of Virginia," adds Schlimme. "People may not want to come to Virginia or Virginia schools."

Others like Chris Burnside want VCU to be a leader in the area of anti-discrimination, now and in the future. He adds, this crisis today, may end in a positive for many. But for now, this is a tough fight, he thinks he'll win.

"It makes us wake up in the middle of the night and be nervous about the future," says Burnside.

Some people were uncomfortable speaking out loud in the forum. So, index cards were placed on every seat, that way everyone's voice may be heard.

Meanwhile, it's the building voice of many inside, that are rallying people today.

"There's a good chance we won't change this policy and I hope it doesn't change," says Schlimme.

The Board of Visitors, which sets all the rules at VCU, will be meeting in May and it is assured that this issue will be a topic of discussion.

There is also a rally set for tomorrow starting at noon on the VCU Campus, in regards to this issue.

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