Racism in broad daylight

Last week, a female Queen’s professor reported being assaulted on campus by four male students wearing engineering jackets. The incident occurred on Nov. 14 when the woman was forced off the sidewalk by the students who taunted her with racial slurs. Principal Karen Hitchcock and the five vice-principals released a statement Nov. 21 condemning the students’ actions and asserting plans to “use all judicial and administrative means at our disposal” to deal with the issue. Hitchcock sent an e-mail to all students Nov. 28 encouraging discussions of the incident.

The 2006 release of the Henry report—which looked at systematic racism towards Queen’s faculty—demonstrates thisincident as part of a greater, recurring issue at the University. The report found Queen’s struggled to hire faculty members from Aboriginal or ethnic backgrounds.

It’s crucial to realize this is not only an abuse of an authority figure on campus but an utter lack of respect between human beings. Whether on a campus or a city street, this isn’t remotely acceptable.

The incident’s occurrence in broad daylight and in the centre of campus makes it that much more disturbing. It’s appalling other students would allow this to take place without intervening. Unfortunately, the shock such an incident should elicit is subdued by the racist atmosphere that—to a degree—has come to characterize Queen’s. Our campus is far from diverse and often even further from accepting or tolerant. Racially assaulting a professor is not only a crime but an embarrassment to the school.

The title of “Queen’s student” is one we all share and although it’s easy to point to the small number involved in the incident, their actions embody a mindset of entitlement of many Queen’s students. The University’s statement calling for progress and punitive measures will be brushed off as mere rhetoric unless more concrete action is taken soon. Principal Hitchcock’s intentions to create forums for discussion on campus get to the point but the outcome needs to be more than collective condemnation. Impressive as it is that the professor came forward, her voice will be muted if Queen’s administrators don’t take a blunt and forceful stand on the issue. The University needs to be proactive instead of reactionary when dealing with racism on campus. There needs to be a visible outcome to anti-racism campaigns.

The AMS—which has yet to make a formal statement regarding the incident—needs to address the prevalence of racism in the student body and actively work to eliminate it. Students need to realize such prevalent racism affects them and their education and indifference towards it is not an option. The silence of all parties indicates complacency in a situation where words couldn’t be more necessary.

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