University of Houston student targeted in homophobic attacks wins election

Posted on 06 May 2013 at 4:38pm

Kristopher Sharp

Kristopher Sharp plans to use his position as vice president of the University of Houston—Downtown to educate the campus on diversity next school year.

Sharp and his running mate, Isaac Valdez, were elected by the student body last week. Sharp was the target of anti-gay attacks throughout the campaign, including a flier that listed Sharp’s HIV-positive status with medical information on the back. In the weeks that followed, Sharp said graffiti stating “Issac + Kris=AIDS” popped up in bathrooms.

The university launched an investigation and Sharp said he is working with the administration. He’s also hired a lawyer for his protection, but he said he doesn’t want to press charges when the person responsible is found. Instead, he wants the university to place them on academic probation.

“I would like the university to take action,” he said. “That would speak more to me than a criminal offense.”

University spokeswoman Claire Caton said the university has been investigating the incident and the result is inconclusive. The incident remains under investigation.

“A lot of positive has come out of it,” she said.

The university has held special forums and expanded its safe zones program by making more people aware of the program and conducting more training.

“Diversity is a huge part of who we are,” Caton said.

Sharp said he knew he had a lot of support from students but worried the negative campaign against him would affect the outcome.

“I was actually very surprised. I had prepared myself for not winning,” he said, adding that his campaign highlighted the improvements he and Valdez wanted to bring to campus. “It was very discouraging, but I think we did a good job turning it around.”

Sharp, who takes office in June, said he and Valdez will focus their attention on campus eco-friendly initiatives and updated technology. But they’ll also use their positions to educate students on diversity and acceptance, which he said wasn’t initially part of their campaign.

“Specifically, we want to address the culture of hate on this campus. It’s really important that we engage the administration and our students in awareness and education,” he said.

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