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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
August 5, 2005

University won't say why gay student is still in jail

Wilberforce, Ohio--Central State University refuses to say why one gay student is still in jail almost two months after a campus melee and another spent 30 days there, while none of the non-gay students involved were detained.

Central State junior Yahieness Dixon, 22, has been in the Greene County jail since his June 9 arrest by campus police. Sophomore Anthony Cathey, 19, was released after 30 days due to lack of jail space.

The two admit turning the stage lights off in a theater to protest a skit presented by campus fraternities and sororities that they found to be offensive and anti-gay. Fights ensued that involved many other students, none of whom were jailed.

Pan-Hellenic Council president Tygene Trammell, the event�s organizer, was later charged with assault. But he was never jailed, according to Greene County Sheriff employees.

Trammell was permitted to graduate. Cathey and Dixon were suspended, banned from campus and charged with disturbing a lawful meeting and inciting to violence. Dixon was also charged with assault.

Audrey Parries, who works as an administrative assistant to Dean of Students Al West, was present and gave a statement to police.

�There�s a whole lot of misunderstanding and misconception going around about what�s happening here,� she said. Asked if she would help clear it up, Parries replied, �I�d love to tell you, but I can�t. I am a university employee.�

There are 23 witness statements, all conflicting. Twelve are not dated, one is dated the previous day, and none identify the officer taking the statement. The arresting officer was Ronzell C. Smith.

Asked if he knew whether the statements were taken the day of the incident or later, campus police chief Tyree Broomfield said, �I don�t know enough about the case to know.�

Parries� statement suggests that she had some supervisory role in that she �alerted� another employee, Kelly Brown, that Dixon �was in the back of the auditorium on his cell phone,� and after it was over, she told Dixon and Cathey, �I wanted them in my office first thing tomorrow morning.�

Parries wrote that Trammell �came charging toward [Dixon]� and was �approximately ten feet from [Dixon] when he was restrained.�

Dixon �picked up a long stick and began waving it around. He finally put it down when [Trammell] was taken out of the area,� Parries wrote.

Parries and Brown said that they were together during this time and close to both Dixon and Trammell. Brown�s statement corroborates Parries� account of Trammell being restrained and removed.

Brown also wrote that she �was hit in the back with the object that [Dixon] was carrying� and that Trammell �then threw me to side to get out of the way.�

Parries didn�t mention either physical altercation.

Tiffany Jones of Columbus wrote that one of the fraternity men backstage said of Dixon, �This gay dude is about to get his ass beat.�

Dixon was later treated for injuries by Xenia Township EMS.

Jones continued, �As soon as that comment was made, the big black Sigma hit [Dixon] in the back of the head and the rest of the fraternity proceeded to jump in. [Cathey, Dixon�s] friend, went to help him and more people jumped in and I ran over to try to help but got elbowed in the face by a member of Omega Psi Phi and drug out the auditorium by members of Delta Sigma Theta.�

Amber Paynter of Rochester, New York, wrote: �As I walked from behind the stage I saw [Trammell] run across the auditorium. He jumped on [Dixon], knocking him off the stage. Some other boys jumped on [Cathey]. They got jumped by a group of people.�

The play was videotaped. The end of the tape shows a man running across the stage and leaping onto the back of an unidentifiable person exiting the stage to the left, taking him down. The runner was identified as Trammell.

The skit Dixon and Cathey found offensive was part of a series of vignettes called �CSU, We Have a Problem!� The organizers� intent is not clear, as some descriptions portray it as comedy and satire, while others suggest it is a more serious look at issues troubling the campus, including sexually transmitted diseases, domestic violence, promiscuity, murder and homosexuality, which was expressed as two men dressed as women trying to join a sorority and exhibiting stereotypical effeminate behaviors.

The emcee introduced the gay vignette differently than the others, by adding a disclaimer: �Sit back and relax, and remember, we�re not trying to disrespect anyone. Right?� as she laughed and walked off the stage.

�Don�t disrespect any fraternities or sororities,� said the emcee.

The offstage announcer brought the actors onstage by saying, �You have to be a male to be part of a male fraternity. You have to be female to be part of a female sorority.�

The school�s policy is that all programs must be submitted for approval by Dean West two weeks in advance. The forms are then passed to various campus offices including the police, who sign off that they know about it.

In this case, Dixon and Cathey both say West knew of the content of the vignette as early as May 28.

Dixon said �closeted queers� within the fraternities came to them about two weeks earlier and told them what was in the skit.

Cathey and Dixon say they approached West with their concerns. They also took the concerns to president John W. Garland, because West was unresponsive.

Garland was not available for comment.

West said he �approved the program,� but would not say whether or not that included its content.

�It�s not a true statement that I approved any program that I thought was going to be offensive to anyone,� said West.

West dismissed a statement by Dixon and Cathey that he denied permission for a similar program during fall quarter as �inaccurate,� but refused to explain.

West expressed dismay upon hearing that Dixon is still in jail. He wrote a letter to Cathey in jail on June 28 saying, �This has been a difficult situation for me, any time I have students that are detained in Greene County that troubles me deeply. I have met with the prosecutor, the chief [of Central State University police] to discuss the charges being reduced.�

�I too, regret this incident,� continued West. �I have been in several meetings with students, administrators and staff to discuss the incident and the nature of it.�

�I want you to know that I am working on getting resolutions to this incident. You are not forgotten, I discuss you and [Dixon] every day with Dr. Knowles.�

Timothy Knowles is the university�s vice president of student services and enrollment management.

When asked who at the university decides whether student offenders are handled internally or referred to city or county authorities, West said, �I don�t know. You�ll have to ask the chief.�

Chief Broomfield said those matters are decided based on �the elements [of the incident], the charging officer, and myself.�

He added that all information is first referred to West, �because we�re not involved in school discipline, only criminal matters.�

West protested questions about why others involved in violent acts have not been prosecuted by saying they have �been dealt with.�

He then explained that �as they have come forward, there have been school judicial proceedings� presided over by school judicial officers, which he said were comprised of faculty, advisors, and some students.

West would not say how many of the 500 people at the June 9 play were dealt with in that manner, or what their punishments were. He also refused to say what distinguished Cathey�s and Dixon�s actions from Trammell�s so that they went to jail and he didn�t, or from the others who were dealt with in school judicial hearings.

Broomfield also refused to say why the gay students were treated differently, saying only that arresting officers have the discretion to refer matters to the Xenia prosecutor, and expressed outrage that the question was asked.

�The two persons were arrested and sent to jail not because of who they were but because of what they did,� said Broomfield.

�They went into the auditorium where they didn�t have to go,� said Broomfield. �There was a panic, running and charging, and someone could have been injured.�

Then he said the two �were taken into custody due to high hostility that night.�

If convicted on all charges, Dixon faces up to 18 months in jail. Cathey faces slightly less.

Their cases are in Xenia Municipal Court before Judge Susan L. Goldie. She has a reputation for giving students from Central State and neighboring Wilberforce University, both traditionally black colleges, maximum sentences and high bails.

Both are unable to meet the bail. Dixon�s is $10,000. Cathey, released because of overcrowding, had bail set at $2,500.

Cathey, a journalism major, has returned to Chicago until his trial and will not be coming back to Central State. He is represented by attorney Joseph Coates of Fairborn.

Dixon, a communications major from Mansfield, says he�d like to return, but has some reservations. He is represented by openly gay attorney Dave Morse, also of Fairborn.

Both lawyers said gay students at Central State are subject to harassment and sometimes physical violence, though not severe.

Of the school�s �zero tolerance� policy on harassment, Dixon said, �If they enforced it like they enforce the no-hat rule in the cafeteria, we�d all be better off.�


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