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One College One Book: Welcome to OCOB 2012

One College, One Book

Welcome to One College, One Book for Fall 2012!

Each year, Rasmussen University students, faculty, and staff online and at all campuses and offices have an opportunity to unite by reading the same book! The One College, One Book program encourages lively discussion on a variety of topics, promotes recreational reading, and raises diversity awareness.

We invite you to join us this quarter in exploring the following non-fiction title:

The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed

by Judy Shepard

Recommended Reading

Check out the following books at your local public library or in our electronic book databases. Links may not open in a new window, so use the back arrow to return to this screen.

The Author: Judy Shepard

Judy Shepard wrote The Meaning of Matthew, published in 2009.  The mother of Matthew Shepard, Judy travels througout the country as a speaker and as an activist for civil rights. 

Dennis and Judy Shepard founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation.  The vision statement of the foundation is  “Replace Hate with Understanding, Compassion, & Acceptance."

Read and Think

These journal articles discuss hate crimes and the events surrounding Matthew's murder from a sociological perspective.  You will be prompted to log in with your Rasmussen e-mail address and password.

The Book: 'The Meaning of Matthew'

The dedication of the book reads, "This story is dedicated to all the 'Matts' out there who feel that Matt's story is a reflection of their own struggle. Hope is out there and change is coming."

In the fall of 1998, a young college student in Laramie, Wyoming, was savagely beaten in an anti-gay hate crime.  Matthew Shepard, age 21, was beaten, tied to a fence, and left for dead.  He died a few days later.  News of his murder and the motives behind it brought attention to the issue of hate crimes directed toward gay and lesbian individuals.

In The Meaning of Matthew, Judy Shepard describes her son from a mother's perspective but with straightforward realism.  With incredible strength, Judy recounts the day she learned of Matt's injuries, the struggles she faced during Matt's final days and memorial service, and the emotions she experienced as the murderers' trials approached.  Judy also reflects on the path which led her to become an activist for human rights.

The Meaning of Matthew presents the tragic story of a life lost because of two men's hatred.  However, it also presents the story of a mother's love, a community's support, and a nation's transformation.

Judy Shepard Interviewed on NPR

Listen to Neal Conan's interview with Judy Shepard on September 8, 2009, as she talked about her book The Meaning of Matthew.  She speaks about the press coverage, public attention, and more.  A transcript of the interview is available.


It Gets Better

Check out other videos and sign the pledge:

Recommended Websites for LGBT Information

All of our guide material comes from reviewed sources.  Because of security features, not all links may open in some public-access Internet areas.

Motive: Hate Crime, or Money and Drugs?

Because the cases against McKinney and Henderson ended with plea bargains, McKinney and Henderson did not testify in court and did not speak under oath about the motive behind the crime.

During McKinney's trial, his lawyer attempted to use "gay panic" as a defense.  However, it's not certain that the crime was motived by hate.

In interviews with Elizabeth Vargas of 20/20, McKinney and Henderson maintain that their motive for the crime was robbery, and the excessive violence of the crime was a result of their drug use.  They maintain that Shepard's sexual orientation was not a motivating factor and that the murder was not a hate crime.

Read a summary of the interviews with McKinney and Henderson, as well as others who knew Shepard and his murderers.

For discussion:

  • After reading the book and the summary of the video, what do you think was the true motive behind the crime?
  • Do you think the media and some organizations exploited Matthew's sexual orientation to bring focus on hate crimes?
  • Conduct your own research into the murder of Scott Amedure by Jonathan Schmitz.  Amedure revealed his secret crush on Schmitz on The Jenny Jones Show.  Schmitz used "gay panic" as his defense.  Do you think "gay panic" was a valid defense, or was it an attempt to rationalize a murder?

Hate Crime Laws

The murder of Matthew Shepard is considered by some to have been motivated by hatred toward gays, although Shepard's murderers claim the motive was robbery.  When it was time for the case to go to trial, officials in the county where the trial was to take place estimated that the trial would use 10 percent of the county's entire budget.  Judy Shepard writes, "At that time, there was no recourse for federal assistance because there was no federal hate crime law that included sexual orientation.  Therefore, the county could not expect to receive any federal funds to offset the costs of the trial" (Shepard, 2009, p. 202).

Video: Judy Shepard calls for hate crime laws

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 allows the FBI to investigate violent hate crimes "committed because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person."

Forty-five states have laws about hate or bias crimes.  Of those, 31 address bias or hate crimes based on perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  View a map illustrating the status of hate crimes within the United States as of June 2012.

For discussion:

  • Do a little research about workplace discrimination laws.  Which groups of people are considered protected classes? Which are not?
  • Is bullying a hate crime? 
  • In order to be classified as a hate crime, must an action involve physical violence, or can words be considered a hate crime?

Statements by President Clinton

On October 10, 1998, President Clinton issued a statement on the attack of Matthew Shepard.  In his statement, the President advocated for the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was before Congress at that time.  Click here to read President Clinton's statement about the attack. 

On November 3, 1998, President Clinton issued a statement on the verdict in the trial of Shepard's killers.  President Clinton called our country a "nation that celebrates differences rather than despising them."  Click here to read President Clinton's statement after the verdict.

Impact on the Reporters

Listen to three Wyoming reporters who covered Matthew Shepard's story.  The reporters tell that even ten years later, they are still impacted by the events they reported.  A transcript of the story is also available.


Court Proceedings

These websites and newspaper articles provide an overview of the media coverage surrounding the trial of Matthew Shepard's killers.  To access the articles, you may be prompted to log in with your Rasmussen e-mail address and password.  Articles will open in new windows.

April 6, 1999:  "Gay students' attacker pleads guilty."  Washington Post, page A9.

October 12, 1999:  "Trial begins in '98 slaying of gay college student.  Aaron McKinney is accused of beating Wyoming student Matthew Shepard and lashing him to a fence."  Orlando Sentinel, page A3.

November 4, 1999:  "2nd man is convicted of killing gay student; Wyoming jury weighs McKinney's fate."  Washington Post, page A1-A2.

November 4, 1999:  Dennis Shepard's Statement to the Court

December 9, 1999:  "McKinney's sentencing agreement."  Wyoming Tribune, page A1.

Initial National News Coverage of Matthew Shepard Story

These newspaper articles provide an overview of the media coverage surrounding the murder of Matthew Shepard and the arrest of his killers.  To access the articles, you may be prompted to log in with your Rasmussen e-mail address and password.  Articles will open in new windows.

October 9, 1998:  "Gay student in Wyoming attacked, left to die."  Columbian, page A3.

October 9, 1998:  "3 arrested in attack on gay man. Victim left on Wyoming fence to die."  Denver Post, page A1.

October 10, 1998:  "Hate crime alleged in Wyoming attack. Gay man beaten, robbed, burned."  Chicago Tribune, page 4.

October 10, 1998:  "Beating victim begged for life.  Three suspects appear in court in brutal attack."  Denver Post, page A1.

October 12, 1998:  "Suspect's dad claims attack not hate crime; Gay college student called a victim of robbery gone awry; Matthew Shepard: In coma, getting worse."   Austin American Statesman, page A2.

October 12, 1998:  "Anti-gay bias confronted in Wyoming."  Boston Globe, page 1.

October 12, 1998:  "Gay victim of beating is dead; Wyoming college student never came out of coma."   Chicago Tribune, page 1.

October 13, 1998:  "Gay student dies; two accused face murder charges. President, Wyoming governor urge passage of laws against hate crimes."  Austin American Statesman, page A2.