College uses a visit from Westboro to fundraise for LGBTQ group

In a windfall fundraising effort, supporters pledged to raise $100 for every minute the group plans to protest

By Katie McDonough

Published February 13, 2013 3:33PM (EST)

            (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
(Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Vassar College, a small liberal arts school in New York's Hudson Valley, will be getting a visit from publicity-addicted hate group Westboro Baptist Church later this month.

In a statement on their website, Westboro warned "students,  faculty, and alumni that the satanic policies of this nation, especially those of the colleges and universities, are causing God to pour His wrath out upon this nation. Doomed American academics fancy themselves to be smarter than God. They promote the fag agenda with all their might and mock the word of God and His messengers at every turn.”

Well, Vassar might not be smarter than God, but they're definitely smarter than Westboro. Here's how the college prepared for their visit from the hate group: By rallying the school's network of alums and other supporters to raise $100 to go towards an LGBTQ rights organization for every minute the group planned to protest.

And people say liberal arts degrees are useless!

The fundraiser for the Trevor Project, a national organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people, exceeded expectations, bringing in $41,529 as of this posting. (Keep an eye on the growing total here.)

Vassar's acting president Jon Chenette says he is in awe of what his students have done in the face of the hate group's threats. He is also proud to be affiliated with an institution that supports LGBTQ rights -- which attracted Westboro's attention in the first place. In a statement on the planned protest, Chennete wrote:

We look forward as a college to any opportunity to counter messages of hate and bigotry and to underscore our values... In the face of Westboro's statements, we want to celebrate the inclusiveness of our community and the multitude of backgrounds, interests, and preferences that enrich our experiences.

Judy Jarvis, assistant director of Campus Life and LGBTQ and Gender Resources at Vassar, was also unfazed by the protesters. In a statement to the student newspaper she said: "The Vassar community is so creative and intelligent, and I look forward to working with students and staff to figure out a response that shows the strength and inclusiveness of our community."

Students have been using a Facebook group to organize students and the surrounding community in a counter-protest on campus. They are also planning teach-ins on LGBTQ rights at the college and around the country while Westboro protests on February 28.


Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

MORE FROM Katie McDonoughFOLLOW kmcdonovgh

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

College Gay Rights Higher Education Lgbt Lgbtq Liberal Arts Westboro Baptist Church