Nursing students at UMass Dartmouth spent their Friday afternoon planning a protest, upset about the university's lack of response to what they are calling "homophobic" and "transphobic" language.

Katelyn Feeney is a junior nursing student at the school. She said that there is a student within the College of Nursing that is "blatantly posting and saying very homophobic/transphobic things (on social media)."

"We just can't stand for this discrimination," Feeney said. "However, nothing has been done by the school to show that we do not stand for this."

Muranda Dutra is a member of the university's LGBTQ+ community. Dutra said this student has been saying upsetting things for a number of years.

"I have put up with a student promoting hate toward the LGBTQ community for three years, and it has only gotten worse. We have reported the behavior and nothing has been done," Dutra said.

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A petition to hold the student and college accountable has circulated the school and has received nearly 1,500 signatures as of Friday afternoon.

The petition states: "Endorsing this type of behavior is the exact reason that LGBTQ+ persons avoid seeking medical care. There is no room for homophobia or transphobia in the healthcare field. The Umass Dartmouth College of Nursing needs to hold this student accountable for their actions. It is a terrifying thought for anyone in or with a loved one in the LGBTQ+ community that the life of you or your family member could be in this student's hands one day. It is ultimately up to the Umass Dartmouth College of Nursing to stop this progression and terminate their support towards this behavior."

One of the posts upsetting to the group of nursing students was this one:

Fun 107 spoke with university officials who said while they may not agree with every student's viewpoints, each student has a First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

The Dean of the College of Nursing, Kimberly Christopher released this statement to the students today.

In the past few days, several of you have reached out to my office with concerns regarding private social media posts. The College of Nursing and Health Sciences and the entire UMass Dartmouth community are committed to diversity, inclusion, pluralism and the free and open exchange of ideas.  We unequivocally condemn discrimination on the basis of gender, gender identity and sexuality, and our program takes seriously its responsibility to educate all our students about the impact of individual and systemic implicit biases in the healthcare professions.

It is vital to our educational mission and professional preparation efforts that civility and respect for all is shown within the classroom and in the workplace.  We also endorse and uphold the principles of free speech enshrined in the First Amendment, which protects everyone’s right to express views that may be unpopular and even deeply offensive.

The College of Nursing and Health Sciences will continue to advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion within our chosen healthcare professions, amongst our student body, and within society at large.

Fun 107 reached out to the student behind the posts in question, who said he has every right to post his own thoughts and opinions on his own social media.

“It’s my personal Facebook,” he said. “I’m a Black, Christian, conservative young man, and I go to a very liberal college that is very biased. It seems that you can’t disagree. (Fellow students) seem to get very upset by some of the religious values I post on my Facebook.”

He also said he was not expecting the school to stand by his First Amendment rights in this situation.

“I’m SO surprised,” he said. “I thought they were going to do something, but I think because I’m a Black conservative foster child, it wouldn’t look good for the school to have any disciplinary actions. I’m a minority. I’m in a vulnerable population, just like some of the people they’re saying are vulnerable.”

The student also denied that there is any homophobia or transphobia behind his posts.

“No. These are basic Christian principles,” he said. “I’m a 23-year-old reverend. I’ve been through a lot in my life. I’ve had to lean on God. By the time I was 16 years old, I was in and out of 22 different foster homes. I had no parents, only God to help me. My worldview is through the Bible. The Bible tells me God created male and female. It’s as simple as it gets for me.”

The rally is being planned for May 13, pending approval from the university. A university spokesperson said the school will respect the First Amendment rights from people on both sides of the issue.

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