Offensive sign causes dispute

By Ken Goze and Sean Leary

A sign in a residence hall window that read “kill a faggot” has prompted an investigation to determine if the message is a violation of NIU’s judicial code.

Senior Joe Peraino, an art history major, said he filed a complaint after noticing the computer printed sign in a fourth floor window on the east side of Neptune Hall East. Peraino said he first saw the sign Wednesday morning and saw it as late as 10:15 a.m. Thursday.

Assistant Judicial Officer Terry Jones said his office began an investigation after receiving a number of complaints. No charges were filed as of Thursday afternoon.

Jones would not speculate on what charges, if any, would be filed. However, NIU’s Judicial Code specifically prohibits “acting or communicating in a manner which intentionally harasses … any person(s) on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or handicap.”

Jones said the incident, which fell in the middle of Gay Awareness Week, is an isolated occurence and the only complaint of its kind so far this week.

If charges are filed, the offender will face a hearing by a board or officer. Penalties can include suspension or dismissal from the residence halls or university.

NIU Associate Legal Counsel Norden Gilbert said violations of the harassment code hinges on whether a person intended harassment.

“It’s always somewhat difficult to define what a reasonable person would see as intent. I can see where a judicial board could draw a conclusion that it (the sign) would be harassment,” Gilbert said.

Although signs such as “eat me” or “death to all yuppies”, which have appeared in windows might be offensive, they are not covered by the code.

“There aren’t any laws against being generally offensive, unless you’re disturbing the peace. Unless the harassment is directed at one of the groups in the code, it’s not an offense,” Gilbert said.