Hypnotized students perform racially insensitive scene at Gael orientation

Approximately 200 students attended the ASUS event

The AMS will not be inviting ‘Incredible Boris’ back to Queen’s.

An ASUS orientation “Mystery Event” took a turn when hypnotized students mimicked speech patterns of different language speakers.

The event, which was part of Gael pre-week, was a performance by hypnotist Boris Cherniak, who goes by the stage name “Incredible Boris.” The event—which took place at Etherington Auditorium on Aug. 28—was well attended by Gaels, orientation chairs, and student leaders. Audience members could choose to partake in the performance by being hypnotized.

The event sanctioning was automatically revoked prior to the event starting, according to subsequent confirmation from the AMS. The stipulation for approval is that all participants sign and submit waivers, which wasn’t done.

According to the AMS, the event which continued unsanctioned, was an independent ASUS event.

During his performance, Cherniak allegedly hypnotized a handful of students who imitated the speech of Japanese, non-specified Indigenous, Italian, and Russian language speakers. The scene had student volunteers act as travellers on a rowboat with a captain yelling out instructions.

In a statement to The Journal, which was later posted to Instagram, the AMS condemned the performance.

“The external performer demonstrated inappropriate behavior and made racially and culturally insensitive comments. The AMS condemns all acts of racism and are profoundly disappointed this occurred. The safety and wellbeing of all students is our utmost priority, and we acknowledge the hurt it has caused,” the AMS said.

Cherniak has since been banned from performing at AMS events, and the AMS is recommending Queen’s follow suit. The AMS is providing a guide for future event organizers on how to handle situations such as Cherniak’s performance, following feedback from ASUS student leaders.

In discussions following the performance, attendees reported being concerned by other elements of Cherniak’s show. For other scenes, hypnotized students were encouraged to act out rubbing sunscreen on each other and to pretend they were wearing tiny bathing suits, according to a source.

The performance continued for over an hour and attendees were instructed by orientation staff to delete any videos taken of the hypnotized students.

The Journal couldn’t confirm which individuals asked for videos to be deleted.

Cherniak doesn’t share the AMS’s sentiments about his performance. He claimed his performance is meant to showcase harmonious existence.

“There was no incident,” Cherniak said in a statement to The Journal. “The notion is to portray how we’re all in one boat, all humans trying to row in the same direction, to live, work and play together in harmony. It is a message of inclusiveness and togetherness, which I reiterate in my performance as a message of inspiration. This skit has been performed repeatedly on network television as well as for many decades at Queen’s orientations.”

Cherniak told The Journal it’s unfortunate his message wasn’t understood by this year’s attendees and claimed he has performed this scene worldwide.

“As an immigrant to Canada, with a foreign accent, I am very sensitive to issues such as this,” Cherniak added.

After Cherniak had left the auditorium, orientation coordinators and leaders apologized to the attendees and said the performance didn’t align with ASUS’ orientation values, according to a source.

The following day, at another orientation event, Gaels were invited to an open discussion about the performance. According to a source, the discussion was facilitated by Head Gael Georgia Dean-Savage and members of the AMS, including the executives.

“The AMS, ASUS and the University continue to explore ways to best support the ASUS Orientation Team,” the AMS said. “The conversation doesn’t end here, and we’re committed to uplifting all student Leaders.”


September 1, 2023

A previous version of this article stated the AMS and Orientation Roundtable (ORT) sanctioned the event. ORT doesn’t facilitate the event sanctioning process, and stipulations by the AMS for proper sanctioning were not met for this event.

The article has been edited to accurately reflect the unsanctioned nature of the event. Incorrect information appeared in the Sept. 1 issue of The Queen’s Journal

The Journal regrets the error


Boris the Incredible, Orientation Week, ORT

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

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