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University defends response to swastikas

Friday, October 22, 2004

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  • Summerlee and Case

    Summerlee and Case

Written by Alastair Summerlee/Patrick Case

This letter originally appeared in the October 21st edition of the Guelph Mercury.

Dear Editor - It would be a disservice to the community if we did not clarify and correct information that appeared in the Oct. 19 editorial and an Oct. 16 news article about the spray painting of swastikas at the University of Guelph.

We are sorry to say that detailed information about the university's response to this specific incident and our comprehensive approach to such intolerable acts was omitted from the article and editorial. In fact, the university reacted swiftly, decisively and in a sensitive and humane manner.

The university takes all acts of hate very seriously. Immediately after the incident, we contacted the city police and launched an investigation, conducted meetings in the residence hall where the hate vandalism occurred, and made it emphatically clear -- in a public setting -- that such deplorable acts of would not be tolerated on this campus. As well, bulletin boards were used to provide students with basic information and education about hate activity, and the director of our Human Rights and Equity Office corresponded widely and talked to various groups on campus, including the Jewish Student Organization.

Writing editorials that point fingers at and find fault with the very institutions and people who are taking concrete steps to diminish the likelihood of any further hate actions is of no service to this community.

Combatting the cancer of hate involves more constructive actions: organizing workshops and vigils in solidarity with groups that have been targeted by hate-mongers; generating a healthy, democratic dialogue with the community; and continuing to encourage and celebrate diversity.

Just last week, the university conducted the first of a series of sessions on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. It brought together Jewish and Muslim students who worked side by side. This was the first time such an event occurred on our campus, and it is a very positive step forward. Currently, we are celebrating Queer Identities Week, an annual event that includes educational panel discussions and workshops. Soon, our annual Hate Crimes Vigil will take place.

The university believes that progress against racist ideology is made through constructive engagement, not by denouncing and accusing. We will continue with our strategy of community building because we believe that is the best antidote in the struggle to counteract prejudice and hatred.

The University of Guelph has publicly denounced hate activity in no uncertain terms and will continue to do so. But we will do it without focusing on single cowardly acts, thereby avoiding the sort of sensationalism that only nurtures these kinds of actions.

Alastair Summerlee
President, University of Guelph

Patrick Case
Director, U of G Human Rights and Equity Office


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