Racist posters surface

(Photo by Nick Lachance

Last month, a Wilfrid Laurier University student brought forward an extremely offensive poster that they found on campus to the diversity and equity office. The poster had an image of Trayvon Martin, who was murdered in Feb. 2012, as well as text depicting racial stereotypes.

Once the diversity and equity office was made aware of the posters, they began working towards having them immediately removed, and working with the Association of Black Students (ABS) to ensure that students who were affected by the negative images received the support they needed.

“I wanted to make sure that the student who brought it forward felt supported and had access to any support that they would require because they were obviously upset,” explained Dana Gillett, acting manager for the diversity and equity office. “We [also] have a protocol for incidents like this.”

Special Constables were immediately informed and began searching for any remaining posters so they could be removed. According to the diversity and equity office, they are still conducting an investigation to find who, or what group, were responsible for creating and displaying the posters.

The ABS told The Cord that they found and removed three of the posters, but have heard of more appearing.

“We’re constantly discovering new things that are happening that [students] kind of keep to themselves, and they don’t tell anybody about, and these are huge issues that can be combated,” said Crystal Gayle, director of marketing and promotions for ABS.

The ABS was told that the school searched campus for 72 hours in order to ensure all of the posters were found and removed.

“We don’t know the reason they’re popping up, which is why we asked the school to look into it, but apparently they searched their cameras and didn’t find anything,” explained Alexis Yearwood, a member liaison of the ABS. “We want to bring the situation to light because it’s one of the acts that have gone unrecognized and that the school has swept under the rug.”

However, Gillett noted that the diversity and equity office is working with ABS to produce educational forums regarding the issue to ensure that the Laurier community is aware of the issues surrounding the poster.

“It’s just about working with the community to make sure they feel supported and that the way that they would like to see the situation handled is brought in,” Gillett said. “[Laurier] is a community so anything that happens within our community that has undertones of hate or discrimination are taken very seriously, and they impact all of our community members.”

Right now, the ABS is working on hosting a workshop on Nov. 27 that will address the issues in a productive manner.

“We feel that Trayvon Martin is representative of a lot of social angst in our community right now, and the sensitivities with which we expected our issues to be received are not up to the standards of Laurier’s safe and inclusive environment,” continued Yearwood. “We’re at a point now where we really want something to be done.”

The workshop, according to Gayle, will allow affected students to talk about their experiences and raise awareness to combat the issue together.

Adam Lawrence, acting dean of students, also expressed his feelings regarding the nature of the posters.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “It’s quite troubling that someone went and took the effort to create the poster, targeting a very sad, significant issue.

“I consider it very disturbing and I consider it a poster filled with some anger, in no way is this thing funny; this is a very serious act, it’s troubling and disappointing,” he continued.

Right now, steps are being taken to ensure that the posters don’t resurface and that people at Laurier understand the situation at hand.

“[We want to] make sure that the people who have been committing these offences know that we are aware that this is happening,” concluded Gayle. “It’s recognized that it shouldn’t be happening.”

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