Members of Queen’s gender studies receive disturbing e-mail

Message came two days after University of Waterloo stabbing

Image by: Herbert Wang

This article discusses gendered violence and recent hate crimes. Readers looking for support may access different resources through this website

The Queen’s Gender Studies Department was shaken by a “disturbing” e-mail received in the wake of the hate-motivated stabbing in a gender studies classroom at the University of Waterloo.

Eight members of the department received an e-mail on June 30 from a Kingston local claiming “toxic femininity” and “powerful women” destroyed his life. The individual requested the gender studies department contact him directly to discuss the matter.

“I reported the e-mail to campus security and [the Gender Studies Department] felt security’s response was inadequate and they didn’t understand the complexity of the situation,” Gender Studies Department Head Sailaja Krishnamurti said in an interview with The Journal.

The Journal was unable to obtain a copy of the e-mails sent to the gender studies department.

A supervisor from campus security notified Kingston Police of the situation and contacted Krishnamurti claiming the police were going to speak to the e-mail’s sender.

“The gender studies department responded to campus security by saying the police aren’t always the best strategy in a situation like this. We need to focus on de-escalation,” Krishnamurti said.

This wasn’t the first time the individual sent e-mails aimed at the gender studies department. Members of the department received similar messages on multiple occasions over the past two years.

Krishnamurti suggested campus security start a discussion with faculty about de-escalation and harm reduction approaches to gender-based violence. When someone in a mental health crisis is approached by police, the individual’s emotions may intensify leading them to become more upset, explained Krishnamurti.

Employing mental health counselors or social workers alongside the police or campus security to handle situations involving individuals who are under mental duress and approaching them in a non-combative, non-threatening manner can help de-escale a tense situation. Krishnamurti said these de-escalation approaches can be learned by all members of the Queen’s community.

According to her, campus security was unable to have conversations about de-escalation and the University has not offered any de-escalation training to faculty or staff.

Formed in November 2022, the Hate Crime Steering Committee was tasked with addressing the rising number of hate crimes occurring on Queen’s campus. To Krishnamurti’s knowledge, the Committee hasn’t sent any further communications to the University community since a report was released in May.

The Steering Committee is expected to formally begin its work in the fall, said Kim Murphy, executive director (risk and safety services), in a statement to The Journal.

Students in the gender studies department speculated hate-motivated stabbings at the University of Waterloo spurred the e-mail at Queen’s.

“I’m not shocked […] this individual took the time to do this when [hate-motivated violence] was already a focus in the media,” said Melanie Murdock, a PhD student in the Department of Gender Studies, in an interview with The Journal.

In the wake of the incident, on June 29 Queen’s University published a statement condemning gender-based violence.

“I wasn’t aware of this statement. A statement is only meaningful as long as people hear about it,” Murdock said.

Murdock voiced concerns the University’s approach to hate-based assaults is reactive rather than proactive.

“The University should be talking with the queer community, racialized folks, and students and faculty at Queen’s to determine what security and safety looks like for equity-deserving groups,” Murdock added.


August 1, 2023

An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the nature of the Hate Crime Steering Committee’s follow-up with the University community. The story incorrectly spelled Dr. Sailaja Krishnamurti’s name.

Incorrect information appeared in the July 31 issue of The Queen’s Journal.

August 2, 2023

The word “radicalized” was incorrectly attributed in a quote to Melanie Murdock where she actually said “racialized.” Incorrect information was published in the July 31 issue of The Queen’s Journal.

The Journal regrets the error


Campus security, gender studies

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