Discussions of racial intolerance are crucial for safety

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Wilfrid Laurier University’s Diversity and Equity Office and the office of aboriginal initiatives hosted the inaugural e(RACE)r summit on Race and Racism on Canadian University Campuses.

The summit took place on March 21, during the United Nations Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The summit initiated the needed dialogue regarding acts of racial discrimination and intolerance on campuses throughout Canada.

With recent anti-Semitic vandalism and other hate crimes aimed towards minorities, Laurier is no stranger to intolerance. Our hope is that the summit encouraged the university to take pro-active and preventative steps towards hate crimes.

University administrators across Ontario joined together to hear and explore strategies to deal with student concerns with racial discrimination.

More than one hundred participants, representing up to six Ontario institutions, decided to join the summit.

Laurier has taken significant measures towards dealing with gendered violence and sexual assault on campus, however the underlying issue of general intolerance on campus has to be better addressed. By hosting this summit, the DEO is being pro-active. Laurier partners are not merely reacting towards every problematic instance with a press conference or theoretical “plans for the future.” Plans must be implemented.

The summit was an opportunity to discuss grounded, plausible solutions to make students feel safe at their own schools. Racial intolerance should be as unacceptable as sexual assault, gendered violence or any acts of cruel violence on campus.

No form of hatred should be overlooked or disregarded, and every crime should be dealt with accordingly.

Obviously every instance is circumstantial, but specific attention should be directed towards every case that has the potential to damage the dignity or general well-being of a victimized student.

Hosting this summit is a great move forward by the Diversity and Equity Office and the Office of Aboriginal Initiatives because it was the first step towards lifting the rug and revealing what’s been dusting away underneath.

Dialogue will always disarm denial.

These are necessary discussions, and the summit was an excellent opportunity.

Waterloo, an inherently diverse and multicultural city — with two universities and a college — has seen a spike in racial intolerance over the last few years.

It’s important to understand that a hate crime of any magnitude can deeply affect students emotionally, physically and, like an illness or injury, can falter their performance academically. This can range from broken ribs to hate graffiti on their door, or even a degrading comment at a party.

No act of hatred should be disregarded and no student should feel alone while faced with any sort of discrimination.

Multiculturalism should be celebrated. With the university’s focus on diversity throughout campus, Laurier is taking needed steps towards cultural cohesion. With events like Turban Up! in the Concourse, as well as large inaugural discussions and speeches regarding racial intolerance, Laurier is moving towards trying to be that accepting campus it preaches to be.

But we still have a long way to go.

We understand there will be no magic policy that will summon overnight success with diversity acceptance throughout the university, but understanding that certain steps need to be taken is the only way to eventually reach this far-off destination.

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