Graffiti at York triggers police investigation

Series of incidents prompts York to create director of human rights position

Graffiti found on a library desk at York University last week has triggered a police investigation.  Officials are calling the anti-Jewish message a “hate incident.”

Campus security called in police after the messages were discovered Thursday. Authorities won’t say whether they believe the graffiti was created by a member of the university community or by an outsider.

The university administration was very quick to condemn the act, calling the incident “cowardly” and “hateful.” A message from university president Mamdouh Shoukri was posted online Thursday. “The spreading of hate is a callous and cruel act, designed to isolate and frighten,” Shoukri wrote.

The quick response was not all that surprising considering the outrage the was sparked in January when the university was slow to react to anti-Black graffiti found on campus. Students organized a rally and march to express their anger after the “N-word” and “Go Back to Africa” were written on the office door of the black students’ club.

When Shoukri showed up at the rally, he was asked to leave. Students claimed that their emails and phone calls to the university administration calling for a response went unanswered for days. Shoukri said, “It did not take days. I think is what it took is a day. It may have taken a little longer. I accept that. That should not happen in the future.”

York is going beyond simply condemning the recent incidents of hate speech on campus. The university has created a director for human rights position, which was posted February 22. The position, unusual at a university, will handle human rights complaints. The university also posted a Joint Statement on Community Values late last month that states, “We must always be vigilant to oppose intolerance in all of its various forms against people deemed to be of the ‘wrong’ colour, gender, sexual orientation, identity, background, politics, religion, nationality or disability.”

Meanwhile, students at York don’t seem to be appeased just yet. Well over 3,000 students have joined a Facebook group called “OUTRAGE OVER RACIAL SLURS AT YORK” where committee meetings and a petition are being organized.