Several Ontario universities are removing course locations and other information from their public websites following a similar move by the University of Waterloo, where a triple stabbing in June has triggered a series of safety measures.
In June, an instructor and two students were stabbed in a gender studies class at the Waterloo school in what police have described as a hate-motivated attack. Earlier this month, the university removed class locations and instructor names from the public domain, and now several other post-secondary institutions have either done the same or are considering it.
- York University and the University of Toronto have taken down course room locations from their websites.
- The University of Guelph said it is in the process of removing identifying information such as room locations and instructor names from public web pages.
- Universities including Wilfrid Laurier said they were reviewing current safety practices, including considering the removal of certain information from public domain.
“We are consulting with our faculties and security experts about safety and security measures in place on our campus and carefully considering additional enhancements,” a statement from Western University in London says.
The University of Waterloo attack that sent an associate professor and two students to hospital has prompted wider discussions about campus security, threats and harassment.
A 24-year-old former student has been charged with various offences, including attempted murder.
Classes on social, gender issues ‘a lightning rod’
The president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, which represents 17,000 university faculty and academic librarians, said safety consultations must involve faculty members and marginalized groups that experience online threats and harassment first hand.
Nigmendra Narain said racist, anti-feminist, anti-LGBTQ and other hate-motivated online extremism is being seen on university campuses and classes that explore social and gender issues.
“These classes themselves have become a lightning rod in terms of hate and online extremism, in particular,” Narain said.
Narain said faculty, staff, students and members of equity-deserving groups that are most targeted have first-hand knowledge to contribute to conversations around underlying issues of extremism and targeted hate crimes on campus.
“We need to have a better and broader conversation about campus safety overall, to protect the mission of the university which is to discuss, talk, collaborate, do research and give students a strong learning environment.
“Staff and faculty associations have an important role to play here,” said Narain, who is also a professor at Western University.
“They understand and get information from their faculty members as to what are the issues that they are facing.”
More ‘robust solutions’ needed
While removing course information from public websites is a good start, Narain said more “robust solutions” are needed, such as increased funding for universities in general, including for safety programs.
The Ministry of Colleges and Universities said $6 million is given annually to publicly assisted post-secondary schools as part of the Campus Safety Grant “to ensure a safe and supportive learning environment.”
The ministry also pointed to the Strengthening Post-secondary Institutions and Students Act, passed last year to better protect students from sexual misconduct by faculty and staff.
“We will continue to ensure that post-secondary institutions are doing everything in their power to make campuses free of hate, discrimination, harassment and violence,” the ministry wrote in a statement.
Narain hopes to see safety collaboration across the university sector as the new school year begins.
“We all want to go in positively looking forward to the great experience for students and faculty, not having to worry about security measures when we go into the classroom.”