Universities: stop reactive responses to hate

Image supplied by: Arden Mason-Ourique

We must learn from the attack at University of Waterloo.

In June, a former student of the University of Waterloo walked into a Gender Studies classroom and stabbed a professor and two students, sending all three to the hospital with serious injuries.

The assault has been confirmed to be hate-motivated.

Hate crimes don’t come out of nowhere. They result from hateful rhetoric, and the current tendency of ignoring the pipeline from menacing words to menacing behaviour is quickly becoming more dangerous.

Two days after the attack at Waterloo, the Queen’s Gender Studies department received threatening emails from a male member of the Kingston community. He blamed female empowerment for destroying his life and demanded a response from the department.

In response to this and previous emails, the department’s head, Sailaja Krishnamurti, appealed to the University and campus security to implement de-escalation training and harm reduction on multiple occasions, but without success.

It’s no secret Queen’s sees multiple hate motivated incidents every year.

Last school year, The Journal reported on numerous antisemitic acts of hate on campus, which mirrored the heinous antisemitism being endorsed by public figures across many forms of media at the same time.

Observing the prevailing attitudes towards marginalized groups across media could allow institutions to predict and prevent hate crimes—an opportunity Queen’s didn’t take advantage of then and continues to
neglect now.

Universities’ promise of academic freedom enables the circulation of diverse opinions on their grounds. Academic dissonance—like which of two physics theories best explains a given phenomenon—doesn’t routinely escalate to violence.

Perpetrators of hate crimes can rationalize their violence with dehumanizing, demonizing portrayals of marginalized groups, such as people who are gender non-conforming.

Queen’s should be looking inwards to see how they’re contributing to anti-queer sentiments. There need to be conversations with professors in response to incidents like the intolerant exam question included on an engineering exam by Professor Colin MacDougall.

Professors being allowed to belittle the queer community constitutes institutional validation of anti-queer sentiments at best and incites violence at worst.

For the preservation of free speech and academic freedom, opinions can’t be allowed to intensify to the point of infringing upon the expressions or safety of others.

In addition to curbing hateful commentary in class, Queen’s must implement proactive measures like the training in de-escalation and harm reduction advocated by Krishnamurti.

Queen’s released an official statement in response to the stabbing at Waterloo, yet even that promoted reactive rather than proactive measures, instructing students in need of immediate assistance to contact the Emergency Report Centre.

It isn’t sufficient to punish perpetrators of hate crimes as they arise.
As politics and rhetoric become further radically polarized, hate crimes will continue to multiply boundlessly unless inclusion of and respect for different ways of being can be promoted.

To protect all those on campus and to avoid contributing to the societal intolerance of marginalized groups, Queen’s must condemn hateful attitudes and stop dismissing the threats they pose.

—Journal Editorial Board


harm reduction, Safety, security, University of Waterloo

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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