By: Social Work Class 3D06D Contributors

We, concerned Bachelor of Social Work students, would like to address the safety issues on this campus that have been largely ignored by the university and the president, Patrick Deane.

On Dec. 8, 2016, two McMaster students booked a study room at Innis Library under the name “McMaster KKK meeting”. This incident was deemed a misguided prank by McMaster spokesperson Gord Arbeau, and the two students were subsequently assigned to sensitivity training directed under McMaster’s Student Code of Conduct.

The characterization of this incident as a prank and the ambiguous consequence of sensitivity training suggest that the safety of racialized students on this campus is not a serious priority to the university and the president.

The Ku Klux Klan is a violent terrorist group that promotes the reactionary politics and ideology of white supremacy, white nationalism and anti-immigration. They are known for terrorizing and killing people of colour. The KKK is still active in North America and publicly endorsed Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The suggested intention behind this incident is irrelevant, and we condemn the University’s rationalization of it. This incident should be understood and acknowledged as a racially motivated hate crime that threatens the safety and well-being of the racialized students on this campus.

This was not an isolated event. On Nov. 21, 2016 the campus was littered with “alt-right” recruitment posters that reflect the ideology of the KKK and other fascist, white supremacist groups.

According to the McMaster Student Code of Conduct, “All students have the right to live and work in an environment free from harassment, intimidation, discrimination or assault.”

The characterization of this incident as a prank and the ambiguous consequence of sensitivity training suggest that the safety of racialized students on this campus is not a serious priority to the university and the president.

How is this right being ensured and protected? Certainly not through vague, textbook statements on McMaster Daily News stating the university’s commitment to inclusitivity. Certainly not through sensitivity training that is not explained to the public and protects the identities of the offenders. How was the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities policy interpreted to determine such minor sanctions for a hate crime? This is not a sufficient response.

The politics of xenophobia, Islamophobia, white supremacy, misogyny and anti-LGBTQ bigotry, emboldened through Trump’s campaign and presidency thus far, are not exclusive to the United States. In addition to the systemic racism and racist police brutality in Canada, there has been a rise in far-right wing activity in universities all over Canada targeting marginalized and oppressed groups. These incidents contribute to a poisoned environment for racialized students on campus.

As outlined in McMaster’s Discrimination, Harassment & Sexual Harassment policy, “A poisoned environment can interfere with and/or undermine work or academic performance and can cause emotional and psychological stress.” These incidents not only instill fear and anxiety, but threaten the safety and lives of racialized students at McMaster.

We demand a more public condemnation of these events and transparency into the investigation and disciplinary processes that follow. We demand that these issues and the safety and well-being of all racialized students at McMaster be taken seriously and made a priority.

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