Campus made aware of hate acts

Wilfrid Laurier University is examining the way it deals with acts of hate in the wake of a recent incident at the faculty of social work building in Kitchener.

Following the discovery of graffiti of an offensive nature on Oct. 1, an email notice acknowledging the presence of the image was sent to all students, staff and faculty at all Laurier campuses.

Waterloo dean of students Leanne Holland Brown explained that the response on the part of her office, the diversity and equity office and Special Constable Services to similar incidents was approached differently in the past compared to today.

“I’m hesitant to say too much because I wasn’t in the role,” she said. “But my understanding is that historically there wasn’t necessarily a public announcement or message directed at the Laurier community about an incident.”

“In the interests of building a community where there are really clear messages and values around the kind of behaviour we expect from folks in that community, I think it’s important to address,” she added.

Diversity and equity manager Adam Lawrence added to the rationale that sending out messages condemning acts of this nature was important on the part of the university and the committee that deals with such matters.

“Because the hate graffiti had been seen by some people we wanted to make sure that we communicated that we don’t tolerate this as a campus community,” he said.

“It doesn’t mean we’re going to be sending out a communication about everything on campus but when the time comes and the committee decides that it’s something the community needs to know about we will make it public.”

Lawrence noted that the approach to this particular hateful act was taken after examining the protocols in place at other universities. A general awareness of issues like this among students is a factor in not taking an approach of “sweeping it under the rug,” he said.

“I think we’re in a time when students are so educated about diversity-related things that having conversations about hate crimes and making students aware of them is the next logical step.”

Asked if making the entire university community aware of an isolated incident in Kitchener couldn’t be construed as just drawing attention to the act itself, Lawrence stressed the importance of awareness.

“Sometimes you need to see and deal with the bad things before you can move forward,” he said. “The reality is that it is happening, it needs to stop.”
Holland Brown assessed the result of the approach as positive, evidenced by the feedback she’s received from students and faculty members.

“For me that was very affirming. I didn’t have one negative response to putting out the message and that’s probably indicative in itself.”