Officials at a Russian university reportedly threatened a student with expulsion after an investigation aroused suspicions he is gay. According to the Moscow Times, one of the pieces of information that led administrators to this conclusion was the fact that he has a pink phone case.
The school in question is the Ural State University of Economics in the city of Yekaterinburg, the third largest metropolitan area in Russia. The country passed a “propaganda” law banning the spread of information on “nontraditional sexual relationships” to minors in 2013. While homosexuality remains legal, the law’s enactment has led to a twofold increase in anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes.
Russia’s climate of anti-LGBTQ+ hostility has seemingly trickled down into collegiate life. As the Times reports, the Ural State University of Economics tracked the social media history of a student believed to be gay, finding that he “liked” too many pro-LGBTQ+ pages for the school’s comfort.
The school’s vice president for disciplinary work, Krasnov Roman Valerievich, called the unnamed student into a meeting and presented him with the university’s findings.
“Here are the printouts: You’re gay,” he concluded.
The student, who has not been identified in media reporting, said that Valerievich pointed to his pink phone case as further evidence of his homosexuality and threatened to kick him out of school for being gay. “The fact that I have a girlfriend, in his opinion, is not an excuse and doesn’t prove that I’m not gay,” he told the Moscow Times.
According to a statement from the university, officials investigated in response to rumors spread by other students.
“The USUE student did have a link to the [LGBTQ+] community on his personal page, which counts as public propaganda,” the school said.
Valerievich further defended Ural State University of Economics’ actions by saying the school has an obligation as a “state university” to “look at... students’ moral character.” “Why shouldn't our youth policy and social departments be looking at what our students do outside class time?” he told EAH News, a regional website.
The student has not been expelled and continues to study at the school, though it’s unclear if he faces disciplinary measures for his choice in phone case.
Attitudes towards queer people have deteriorated in Russia over the last decade and a half. In 2005, 59 percent of Russians opposed marriage equality, but that number is up to 80 percent today. Since 2004, the number of people who consider gay people dangerous and said they should be “isolated from society” has grown from 12 to 20 percent.
Meanwhile, about 41 percent said that “untraditional sexual preferences” should result in persecution in order to “exterminate the phenomenon.”
It’s not the first time that LGBTQ+ people — or those suspected to be LGBTQ+ — have faced persecution in Yekaterinburg. Last year police seized children’s drawings following a day of tolerance, claiming that depictions of same-sex couples amounted to “gay propaganda.” Earlier this year a local LGBTQ+ organization received messages threatening the center with violence if it did not close its doors.