BY MARYA JUCEWICZ '17
This week Mount Holyoke News received a letter to the editor from Wayne Lela regarding the presence of “ignorant liberal bigots” who practice “sleazy discrimination” against conservative students and faculty on college campuses. In his letter, Lela urges students to welcome “intellectual diversity” to their campuses and suggests that colleges should institute affirmative action for the purpose of hiring conservative professors.
What he doesn’t mention is that he is the founder of Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment, or HOME — an organization based out of Illinois that was classified as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2015. In 2014, he distributed anti-LGBTQ flyers to students at Northwestern University, according to the Daily Northwestern. In April 2015, after students at Oberlin College protested the appearance of speaker Christina Hoff Sommers and in April 2016, when faculty at SUNY New Paltz raised discussion about conservative speaker Cliff Kincaid, Lela submitted strikingly similar letters to the Oberlin Review and the New Paltz Oracle, respectively.
In all three of these letters, Lela cites three of the same sources — it seems the only major changes he’s made are tailoring his introduction to whatever controversy occurred at each college.
Mount Holyoke News has no obligation to run any of the letters we receive. As MHN’s managing editor of content, I am one of the people who decides what letters we run in our Op/Ed section. Since Lela is not a member of the Mount Holyoke community and people have expressed similar opinions in various public arenas, including Mount Holyoke’s public Facebook page, I would not typically be inclined to give him an inch of space in our newspaper.
But after considering his unique position as founder of a hate group, we chose to run this letter. I encourage all of the people who criticize Mount Holyoke for the same reasons he does to consider the company they are keeping. HOME’s website, last updated May 2016, features pages titled “Should we have hate crime legislation?” and “Freemasonry’s connection to the homosexual movement,” among others. There’s even a page dedicated to “liberal hate groups” that says the SPLC is made up of “ignorant bigots” who “defend the homosexual agenda.”
Lela’s opinion that professors at institutions like Mount Holyoke push “one-sided, liberal propaganda” on their students is not unique. After the video of Rosnick hit the web, Mount Holyoke’s public Facebook page received an influx of negative one-star reviews criticizing Rosnick and the College, many of which came from outside the college community.
In writing this, I am not attempting to silence anyone. Rather, I am encouraging the people who express these views to take a look at the people who are standing in solidarity with them. I think Lela and I agree on one point: we should foster inclusive environments in order to promote healthy debates and discussion. I just don’t think sending your unsolicited opinion to various college newspapers, passing out hateful propaganda on college campuses and founding a documented hate group are the best ways to do that.