Commentary | Hate crimes count too

An open letter to the McGill administration

I am writing this letter out of concern over the University’s minimal  public response to the homophobic assault of a McGill student that occurred on February 2 at the MacDonald campus. I was surprised to learn about the assault over a week after it occurred in a February 11 article in The McGill Daily : “Queer student assaulted on Mac campus” (News, Page 3, February 11). The article made me wonder why University administrators had not distributed a press release or email to inform the McGill community of the assault, and what the administration was doing in response to make McGill safer. When a man sexually assaulted several female McGill students in April 2011 near the downtown campus, you (Dean Jane Everett and Associate Director Pierre Barbarie) promptly created press releases telling McGillians about what had happened and offering suggestions for ways to remain safe, as well as explaining counselling options available to affected community members.

No such response was issued following the February 2012 assault. Regardless of intentions, this lack of public action gives the impression that the administration deems it more important to protect women from male sexual violence than to protect against violence directed toward other groups, or in other contexts. I do understand  that the situation may have seemed more urgent in 2011: at the time of  the press releases, the assailant had not yet been apprehended and it appeared possible that he might attack again. However, violence is violence and should not be tolerated in any context. McGillians have a right to know what is happening on campus and what the administration is doing to respond and to make McGill safer. We shouldn’t have to learn about it long after the fact in a newspaper article.

McGill’s current policies should be modified to ensure that all incidents of violence and/or prejudice receive prompt and uniform response. McGill’s current “Policy on Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Prohibited by Law” is not ideal, as it focuses on conciliation  between the parties directly involved in an incident, and says little about when or how the university should publicly respond to incidents of  violence and/or prejudice. Perhaps McGill could consider following the lead of other universities by creating an official hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents response protocol.

Thanks in advance for taking my concerns seriously. I look forward to hearing your response.

Sincerely,

Jacob Sagrans

Jacob Sagrans is a Musicology Ph.D candidate. He can be reached at jacob.sagrans@mail.mcgill.ca

 


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