Western officials are reaffirming the university’s zero-tolerance stance against racial slurs after an unauthorized user posted a racist tweet to a Western Student Recreation Centre Twitter account earlier this week.
On Monday night, an unauthorized user accessed a Western Student Recreation Centre computer in the weight room and logged into a Twitter account run by staff to post information on the number of people using the area. That unauthorized user then posted a single racist tweet under the weight room account, @WesternWeightRm.
Staff deleted the tweet soon afterward. In a later tweet, they acknowledged the breach and indicated it would be investigated.
Although unclear how many people viewed the tweet, students and faculty raised concerns with the message to university administrators and Campus Community Police Service.
Following an investigation, police identified and interviewed a male student regarding tweets on Tuesday. That student has since been removed from residence and banned from campus for seven days.
“This isn’t tolerated. Period. There is no place for racism at Western,” said Angie Mandich, acting associate vice-president (student experience). “This goes against our values, as well as our student code of conduct.”
Western’s Code of Student Conduct explicitly prohibits students from “engaging in conduct that is, or is reasonably seen to be, humiliating or demeaning to another person or coercing, enticing or inciting a person to commit an act that is, or is reasonably seen to be, humiliating or demeaning to that person or to others.”
The accused student will face a hearing under the code and may be subject to suspension or expulsion from the university. This is a confidential process, Mandich stressed, so details including name and final judgment will not be publicly released.
Today, Western administrators and student leaders have been quick to denounce the message.
“The language is nothing short of hate speech, and is absolutely not tolerated on Western’s campus,” Matt Helfand, University Students’ Council president, said. “It is deeply troubling a member of our campus community would commit such an offense. Your University Students’ Council is deeply committed to ensuring that Western’s campus continues to be an inclusive learning environment that is free from hatred of this kind. Yet, an incident such as this is a stark reminder of the vigilance necessary in dealing with this sort of behaviour.
“Fostering a safe campus community requires effort, and collaboration.”
Larissa Bartlett, Equity & Human Rights Services director, applauded those on campus who spoke out quickly and loudly against the tweet.
“A tweet of this nature is of serious concern to a campus which prides itself as one where diversity, safety and respect for each individual are valued,” she said. “To those who spoke out and named this racist tweet for what it is, your voices were heard and are being acted upon. Western assures you it will take immediate actions to ensure the individuals involved will be held accountable.”
Two Rec Centre accounts have been temporarily suspended from use during this investigation.