Ryerson contacts police and promises no-tolerance policy to crack down on hate crimes
By Jordan Heath-Rawlings
Ryerson has stepped up the fight against hate crimes after violent, racist graffiti appeared in campus washrooms last week.
Scrawled on several washroom stall doors in Kerr Hall were comments such as “Sept. 11 should have happened in Israel” and “Die Jews.”
Next to some of the anti-Semitic comments was a scribbled sketch of the map of Israel, with a circle and slash around it (like a no-smoking sign).
“We take this very, very seriously,” Ryerson President Claude Lajuenesse said on Tuesday. “Finding and identifying the guilty part may be a challenge.”
Security has launched an investigation and Ryerson has put up posters in hopes of discouraging further defacement of school property.
“Can you see the writing on the wall?” asks a poster placed inside washrooms around campus since Saturday. “Anyone caught defacing Ryerson property will be disciplined.”
Ann Whiteside, Ryerson’s Equity and Harassment Complaints Officer, was quick to explain that the culprit could be any community member, from student to faculty to support staff or even a visitor to campus. Whiteside said that should an offender be caught, the university’s “discipline” will be harsh.
“Usually our policy tries to be educational rather than punitive,” she said. “Except in serious cases. And this is very serious.”
Whiteside said the university will not tolerate this type of activity on campus.
“If somebody was caught now that we have the posters up, and it was a student, it would mean expulsion,” she said. “If it was a faculty member, it could mean termination.”
Whiteside said that in addition to Ryerson’s investigation, campus security performed an audit of the graffiti last Saturday and has turned the case over to Toronto police at 52 Division.
Ryerson officials first learned of the graffiti last Thursday, when it was reported by journalism student Mordechai Drache.
Although Whiteside said that she understood the cleanup would happen on Friday, some of the graffiti remained on bathroom stalls, next to the university’s posters, until late Saturday afternoon.
The defaced washrooms remained open from Thursday through Saturday, a decision RyeSAC President Odelia Bay questioned.
“The nature of the graffiti necessitated that action be taken fast,” said Bay. “Apparently, that’s not always possible.”
Lajuenesse denied that Ryerson was slow in cleaning up the graffiti. He said the university took all the necessary steps to eliminate it.
“I think that’s a total lack of realism,” the president said of criticism regarding the graffiti cleanup, explaining that Ryerson has to photograph the graffiti and contact police before cleanup could begin.
“I think (the graffiti incident) has been a learning experience for Ryerson,” said Bay, adding that if an immediate cleanup wasn’t possible, “instead of letting the space exist with those kind of messages on the wall, security should have closed those washrooms.”
Whiteside agreed that Ryerson can learn from the incident, and said that she will be meeting with members of the Canadian Jewish Congress this week to find out how to better combat anti-Semitism at Ryerson.
The Ryerson Muslim Student Association condemned the vandalism in a statement released on Tuesday.
Stating that everyone must work towards harmony, the RMSA’s statement called upon everyone “to desist from casting aspersions at Muslims.”
This isn’t the first time in recent years Ryerson has been hit with anti-Semitic graffiti.
Last year, Ryerson’s Jewish Student Association erected a Sukkah — a small Jewish prayer hut — outside Pitman Hall.
The Sukkah was vandalized twice, its walls spray painted with the message “Hay Israel, how many kids U kill?”