Bridgewater State University authorities said yesterday they are investigating a student’s account that she was punched in the face Thursday night on campus by a woman who objected to her editorial in the school newspaper supporting same-sex marriage.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Destinie Mogg-Barkalow, 20, said that while she is openly gay, she does not believe her alleged assailant was aware of her sexual orientation. Fred Clark, executive vice president at Bridgewater State, said the school is not classifying the assault as a hate crime, but regarded it as a troubling display of intolerance directed at a fellow student’s political views.
“We will not tolerate any student or faculty member in any way impinging upon students’ rights to express themselves,’’ he said.
Mogg-Barkalow, a junior, said that she was walking near the Chapel parking lot when she was approached by a man and woman about 6 p.m.
She was wearing a T-shirt with the school newspaper’s name, the Comment.
Mogg-Barkalow said the man and woman initially seemed friendly, inquiring about her work at the newspaper.
She said the man, described as white and 6 feet 4 inches tall with short, dark hair, asked, “You work for the Comment, right?’’ He also asked if her name was Destinie; she assumed he recognized her from a photo that sometimes appears alongside her newspaper columns.
‘I really didn’t see this coming. They seemed very nice. I didn’t feel threatened.’Destinie Mogg-Barkalow Bridgewater State student who reported attack
He then inquired whether she was the author of a recent editorial on same-sex marriage, which included her commentary on California’s controversial Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage.
An appeals court ruled this month that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
When Mogg-Barkalow confirmed she was the author, the woman - described as white, 5 feet 2 inches tall, and slender, with dyed red hair and a nose ring - punched the writer’s right eye.
The couple giggled and walked away after the encounter, according to Mogg-Barkalow.
Mogg-Barkalow said she was stunned.
“I really didn’t see this coming,’’ said the student, who grew up near Houston, before coming to Massachusetts for college. “They seemed very nice. I didn’t feel threatened. It was this weird encounter.’’
The editor of the school newspaper, Mary Polleys, said Mogg-Barkalow came into the campus newspaper office about 20 minutes after the alleged assault. Polleys and several other students were there.
Polleys said Mogg-Barkalow appeared more in emotional shock than physical pain. Walking into the office with a reddened eye, the writer said, “I just got punched in the face,’’ according to Polleys.
Clark said Mogg-Barkalow did not seek medical attention.
The newspaper editor called campus police immediately, and officers responded within minutes to question Mogg-Barkalow.
She provided a detailed description of the man and woman, and police may release a composite sketch if they cannot locate the alleged pair through a review of student identification photos.
Mogg-Barkalow, a political science major who also works full time at an electronics store, lives off campus with her parents, both of whom teach at the school.
Polleys said she saw Mogg-Barkalow yesterday, and her reddened eye had bruised.
Mogg-Barkalow said she plans to continue to attend classes as usual and does not see the violent encounter as suggesting the campus is unsafe.
Clark, affiliated with the school for two decades, said he had never heard of a student being assaulted for exercising the right to free speech.
“I don’t recall that ever happening at Bridgewater State,’’ he said.Patricia Wen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.