“We’re going to let this strengthen us”: students of Chown Hall floor speak to racist note

Affected students grateful for support they have received

Chown fourth-floor students Charlotte Dorey, ArtSci ’23, and Sian Ruttan, Con Ed ’23.
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Emily* was on her way to class on the morning of Oct. 10 when she found a note taped to the wall in her common room on the fourth floor of Chown Hall. 

The note was written in verse and addressed to LGBTQ+ and Indigenous students using derogatory and violent language.

Emily wrote a message to her floor’s group chat about the note. It immediately shocked Sian Ruttan, Con Ed ’23, and Charlotte Dorey, ArtSci ’23, two other students on the floor.

“I felt my stomach drop and my blood boiling,” Ruttan said in an interview with The Journal. “It was really upsetting.”

The note also referenced an incident on Oct. 9 in which posters and flags, including a Métis flag and Ruttan’s Pride flag, which had her full name and phone number on it, were stolen from the fourth-floor common room.

Leading up to the discovery of the racist note on Oct. 10, residents of Chown’s fourth floor put up signs asking for their flags back, which were anonymously defaced. According to Ruttan, Dorey, and Emily, students on the fourth floor had reported this incident to their residence don.

The three said there were messages of support in their group chat all day as the students dealt with the shock of what happened.

“It was terrifying,” Dorey said. “A couple people didn’t stay overnight [the night of October 10] in the building because they didn’t feel safe.”

Since the beginning of the school year, life on Chown Hall’s floor four had been an idyllic freshman experience for its residents.

“We’re all very good friends. We talk all the time, we were always hanging out in our common room,” Ruttan said about her floor.

“I wasn’t expecting such an awesome community,” added Dorey.

Emily agreed. “It was really welcoming and inclusive right from the start,” she said.

The note—which came seven months after racist and anti-Semitic graffiti appeared on campus—attracted wide attention. Principal Patrick Deane, the AMS, ASUS, SGPS, and Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre released statements concerning the incident.

Staff members from the Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre were present at Chown immediately following the discovery of the racist note, according to Dorey. She said they’ve gone to Chown multiple times since the initial discovery to perform smudging rituals, and they’ve also hosted a Sacred Fire.

“They really opened their arms to us,” Dorey said. “I feel like the school has been really behind us on this.”

Ruttan told The Journal information has been provided to Chown residents about how to access therapists, social workers, Empower Me, and Student Wellness Services.

The students said they feel the Queen’s community has rallied around them, pointing to chalk drawings messaging support for Indigenous and LGBTQ+ students and condemning the note’s sentiments around campus, as well as Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre’s March in Solidarity scheduled for Friday, Oct. 17.

At the time of publication, almost 300 students had committed to attending the march online.

Though they’ve experienced support from their floormates and the Queen’s community, the three first-years admitted things have changed since the incident.

“It’s been really hard,” Ruttan said. “It was a moment where a lot of people had to grow up really fast, because it was so painful.”

“I still feel pretty safe on my floor, but going to and from class there’s suspicion, because at this point we don’t know which individual or individuals have done this,” Dorey said.

Security presence has increased at Chown Hall. One of Dorey, Ruttan, and Emily’s floormates told them he saw Campus Security patrolling their floor.

When The Journal visited Chown Hall on Wednesday, there was security in the lobby that Dorey said is new since last week’s racist incident.

In Chown Hall, once an person has entered through the two sets of locked front doors, they’re able to access any of the residence’s four floors. This is unlike other Queen’s residences, such as Victoria Hall or Brant House, where each floor has a locked door and is only accessible through keys given to residents of that floor.

In a statement posted by the Queen’s Gazette on Oct. 10, Deane wrote that the Kingston police had been notified and the incident is under active investigation.

None of the students interviewed by The Journal have spoken to police, including Emily, who initially discovered the note.

All three students are looking forward to moving on from the incident. Ruttan hopes it will serve as a tool for educating the Queen’s community.

“This isn’t the first time something racist has happened at Queen’s and it’s time for it to stop. It’s time for it to end. There’s no need for it,” Ruttan said. “I hope this will be the last time Queen’s ever experiences something so negative on campus.”

Dorey said they’ve restored a lot of their posters and one of their floormates gave them another flag.

“I’m happy with the support I’ve gotten, and I’m feeling confident that I have people who support me,” Ruttan said. “I want people to not let this ruin how they started university. We’re going to let this strengthen us.”

*Name has been changed to protect the anonymity of the student.

 

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