Laurier students come forward with experiences of racism and discrimination on campus

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Graphic by Kashyap Patel

The killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by Minneapolis police on May 25 has sparked global and national protests. 

These protests have been leading the way for discussions around racism, anti-Black racism, workplace discrimination and institutionalized racism.

Within the past few weeks, students from Wilfrid Laurier University have used these discussions to share their experiences of racism on campus more directly through Spotted at Laurier, the Twitter account that accepts and posts anonymous submissions from students. 

The first submission to address these issues was posted on May 29, and accused a marketing professor for their lack of understanding about racial injustice.

Since this first post, many students have come forward and shared their comments and concerns about racism at Laurier. 

Laurier has always condoned racism in the name of free speech. It’s time they do better. @Laurier,” one post read. 

Many students are encouraging others to speak on their experiences of racism and to not be silent on these issues. 

A second-year student, who requested to remain anonymous, shared their experience of racism during their first-year in residence. 

“I’m now going into [my] second year at Laurier and in my own [residence] I felt alienated from move in day to move out day, my roommates were openly racist and homophobic, and saw nearly no issue with it despite being called out on numerous occasions,” the source said. 

“When I’d cook ethnic food I would get dirty looks and they’d justify it with ‘I’m from a small town,’ which does not make up for the fact they chose to be ignorant everyday and would become very angry and almost confused when they were called out.” 

The student says that they became increasingly uncomfortable living there and reached out to their don for help. The don got involved, but the micro-aggressive comments did not stop. 

“I’ve thought about transferring schools more times than I can count, racism is so prevalent on the Laurier campus and nothing is ever done,” the source said. 

“The campus is not a safe place for black and other people of colour, the campus is predominantly white and they have no issue allowing racial slurs to leak from their mouth,” they added.

Spotted at Laurier has received many similar complaints from students about racism being prevalent on campus. 

The fact that so many black, brown, asian, and indigenous students have stories about discrimination to share and that nothing has changed shows that the institution has failed. Do better, @Laurier. What good are your diversity offices if nothing changes?,” a tweet from May 31 read.

Another student, who wishes to remain anonymous, shared their experience of racism in their first-year residence building, where their roommate was discriminatory towards the source and their boyfriend, who are both Black. 

My roommate was very rude to him which I thought was weird, but I didn’t have time to address anything until the next day. Before I could address my concerns about my roommate’s attitude towards my boyfriend, my other roommates approached me and told me that that roommate had said something very racist about my boyfriend.”

“She said ‘I’m not racist or anything, but I would lock my doors tonight if I were you.’ When my other roommates asked her why she would say that, she said she just didn’t feel safe, or something along those lines.” 

The source mentioned that their roommate also made comments about their boyfriend’s nice jacket and the housewarming gift he brought, asking how he could afford such items. 

Another student, who requested anonymity, shared a further experience of racism in her residence building as well. 

The source said that when her roommate, who is white, brought her friends over to their apartment, her friends started speaking in an Indian accent.

“Due to my skin colour, they assumed I don’t speak English properly and started making fun of both myself and my other roommate. My other roommate and I ignored it and they continued harassing us in an Indian accent then began swearing at us.”

The source said that their roommate said nothing to her friends and laughed along with them. When the source reported this incident to her don, no action was taken. 

“The department of residence at Laurier is extremely inactive and does not do anything when there’s discrimination inside residence,” the source said. 

These incidents are not strictly happening on campus either. Another student, who wishes to remain anonymous, shared their experience of racism directed towards them on a night out. 

“In 2018 I was walking home with a friend past [a bar uptown] and there was a lineup as usual. Just as [we passed by], a white male who was drunk yelled out ‘I fucking hate asian girls’ and other racial slurs,” the source said. 

“Drunk or not, it just wasn’t acceptable and we wanted to say something to fight for ourselves but since he was drunk we didn’t want to escalate it physically or anything so we stayed silent.” 

Wilfrid Laurier University recently released the following statement which addresses concerns of racism on campus. 

“Laurier recognizes the systemic inequities and racism faced by Black, Indigenous, and racialized people. Laurier, along with other Canadian universities, must do more to address racism and support a thriving community in which all feel included,” the statement read.

“Laurier’s senior leaders are committed to working collaboratively with members of our community toward racial justice by taking direct action, providing necessary resources and infrastructure, and holding themselves and others accountable.”

Laurier has recently been criticized for repurposing and appropriating the Being Raced research study, conducted by lead authors and researchers Paige Grant, Azka Choudhary, Joey Lee and Kate Harvey. The study analyzes the experiences of racialized students on campus. 

An email sent to the Laurier community on June 2 failed to credit the researchers; instead, it appeared to give credit to senior administrators at Laurier. Many are describing this as an example of academic misconduct committed by the school. 

“Laurier is extremely grateful for the research and recommendations produced by the authors of the Being Raced study. The university has apologized to the authors for neglecting to credit them by name in an email sent June 2 to the Laurier community and in a subsequent social media post,” said Wilfrid Laurier University in an email statement. 

“We are committing to resources and actions. Dr. Barrington Walker, Laurier’s Senior Advisor of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, will be leading initiatives addressing recommendations from the Being Raced report, administrative and academic priorities, and setting timelines for action.” 

Carla Beharry, one of the organizers of the KW Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter, told The Community Edition that in order for change to happen, allies need to educate themselves and work to address unconscious biases. 

“The more people hear these words, the more people are going to get used to them because, at the end of the day, these conversations are just beginning. People will have to get [uncomfortable],” Beharry said.

“This is part of the process of being an ally. Learning to sit with the discomfort, taking the responsibility to educate oneself and becoming comfortable and respecting that when we’re looking at how things need to change.”

“Really wrap your mind around what is being spoken about right now and to understand and start to unravel what your own unconscious biases are,” she said.

With files from Melissa Embury, Editor-in-Chief of The Community Edition.

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