On February 2 at a MacDonald campus event, six individuals assaulted Kristian Fidrych, a U2 Wildlife Biology student, after he was seen dancing with another male student. Fidrych was punched, kicked, and put in a headlock before managing to escape from his six attackers, who were not McGill students. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. According to Fidrych, many openly queer individuals on Mac campus are targeted with verbal attacks and pushing.
What’s more, the McGill administration has completely failed to respond to this attack. No email was sent from the McGill Relations Office making students aware of the situation. Further, Associate Dean of Student Affairs for the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, David Lewis, said to The Daily “I just wish [the incidents] didn’t occur, but I can’t stop them from occurring.” This defeatist attitude towards assault is unacceptable.
Hate crimes like these on campus, and Mcgill’s subsequent lack of response, give evidence of a broader institutional problem. There is, in fact, much that the administration can and should be doing to make all students feel safe and supported.
To begin with, the administration and student groups like the MacDonald Campus Student Society must foster an open-minded and inclusive environment on Mac campus. This can be achieved through providing support for initiatives such as Rez Project, a program designed to facilitates discussions with downtown campus first-year students on sexual assault sensitivity, gender awareness, and queer and trans-positivity. There is currently no equivalent to Rez Project at Mac Campus.
On-campus resources and support groups for queer students are also desperately needed at Mac campus. Earlier this year Rainbow Mac, Queer McGill’s counterpart, was closed due to consistently low membership. The closure was ostensibly because of an intolerant environment on campus, which made students fearful of aligning themselves with groups that deal with queer issues. Services to support survivors of sexual assault are noticeably absent from Mac campus, and there are few safe spaces on campus.
The McGill administration should be doing everything in its power to implement and maintain such valuable resources to students – by improving the currently woeful state of transportation between the campuses, for example. But it’s student groups like Queer McGill and SACOMMS that run most of these services on the downtown campus, and they too should take the lead in expanding services to Mac Campus, by hosting panels and workshops, and establishing safe spaces for students.
By ignoring rather than addressing incidents such as these, the administration is only helping to perpetuate the larger institutional and societal problems at play. All students should be able to go to classes and social events without fearing for their safety. McGill must take action now and show that hate crimes will not be tolerated on either campus.