Community responds to false hate crime

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From far left, Billy Kluttz, Jeff DeLuca, Terri Phoenix, Winston Crisp, Mark Kleinschmidt, Dean Blackburn at the open forum on hate crimes and safety on campus.

The issues surrounding Quinn Matney’s false report of a hate crime have not necessarily put the UNC freshman above the law.

But on Thursday, members of the community came together to take part in a public discourse on hate crimes at UNC, providing a clear indication that Matney’s case warranted a campuswide conversation.

Gathering inside Gardner Hall, members of the community sympathized with Matney’s motivation to cover up an act of self-mutilation. And they worked to make sure others like him don’t feel marginalized.

“I think there’s tremendous stigma around mental health issues in our community,” said Winston Crisp, vice chancellor for student affairs. “It is disturbing and sad whenever a person feels like they have to hide.”

Matney’s father, David Matney III, said Wednesday that his son’s burns were self-inflicted. He said Matney reported the incident as a hate crime because he was embarrassed to admit he had hurt himself.

Students at the forum raised concerns about a campus environment in which Matney felt the need to hide his problems.

“The only thing I’m afraid of is people who didn’t understand the issue will belittle anybody who decides to come forward,” said freshman Lauren Scanlan.

Though Matney’s father said his son’s intentions were not malicious, officials said he will likely face charges. Crisp and Mike McFarland, University spokesman, said Thursday they were uncertain of what charges he might face.

“We do not and will not punish people for being mentally ill,” Crisp said, noting that personal issues don’t absolve anyone of guilt.

Later in the forum, students’ and administrators’ concerns turned from Matney’s case to the possibility of real hate crimes on campus.
“Most of the time, (hate crimes) go unreported and invisible,” said Terri Phoenix, director of the LGBTQ Center.

Phoenix and other administrators said they hoped this incident would not discourage students facing harassment from coming forward.

Phoenix added the LGBTQ Center provides forms for students to fill out and report harassment or assault cases.

“Most of the time it’s the most subtle, unnoticeable things,” Phoenix said. “But if you’re a target of that, you notice it.”

Danny DePuy, assistant director of the LGBTQ Center, said there are many campus resources for students who are bullied, including a weekly group that discusses sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Avery Cook, clinical services coordinator for Counseling and Wellness Services, said students are always welcome to discuss any mental or emotional issues they face on campus.

“It’s certainly not something you should have to deal with on your own.”

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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