Article updated Feb. 13, 2012
On February 2, a Macdonald Campus student was assaulted at an event by six non-McGill students, who fled the scene without being identified. He was attacked for dancing with another male student.
The student, Kristian Fidrych, a U2 Wildlife Biology student, was put into a headlock, punched, and kicked until he managed to escape. It is believed the assailants were intoxicated.
The incident has put Macdonald campus under the microscope for what has become an ongoing issue for its small queer community. Although this was the worst attack Fidrych has experienced, he said that it is not the first.
In an interview with The Daily, Fidrych described past incidents.
“At least the [students] that are out [who] I know…most of them have experienced verbal [attacks] and pushing to a degree,” he said.
Associate Dean of Student Affairs for the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences David Lewis called the incident “really sad and unfortunate.”
“I just wish [the incidents] didn’t occur, but I can’t stop them from occurring,” he continued.
As well as associate dean, Lewis is also disciplinary officer for the faculty, and is charged with resolving issues like these either formally or informally. In Fidrych’s case, no disciplinary action can be taken because the attackers were not McGill students.
“If students come in to me and say they’ve been harassed or something of that sort, then of course they have a grievance, and I’m there ready to help them as best I can,” said Lewis.
Lewis noted that, due to the nature of the small community atmosphere at Macdonald campus, when issues like this do occur, they attract increased attention.
Fidrych cites the rural atmosphere and a small group of students who “come from non-urban areas that aren’t exposed to the gay lifestyle,” as a possibility for the high incident rate.
For targets of homophobia at Macdonald campus, there is no specific support group dedicated to these issues. At the downtown campus, SACOMSS (Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society) and Queer McGill act as support groups. Queer McGill’s Macdonald counterpart, Rainbow Mac, closed this year after a chronic lack of members in recent years.
Fidrych said queer students that have not publicly come out were afraid to join.
“They didn’t want to be associated with being gay, with Rainbow Mac, because they were afraid,” he said.
It is an option for queer students to come downtown, or phone in to support services to seek help. As Kate Rath-Wilson, external coordinator for SACOMSS said, “We’re here to listen to anyone who wants to call the line.”
Lewis said he hoped that “students in these kind of situations would, at the very least, speak to someone that they are comfortable with,” and also hoped that they’ll feel comfortable speaking with him.
Rath-Wilson said that SACOMSS has been lobbying to get Rez Project into Mac residences. Rez Project is a seminar for first-year students living in residences, where discussion focuses on “gender identity, consent, and a whole bunch of issues that come with people living together.”
As for Fidrych, he expressed some apprehension about his next visit to the campus.
“This is scary. I don’t really see myself partaking in any late-night activities there anymore,” he said.