WARNING: The content below may be offensive to some readers.
Members of Ryerson’s Jewish community and others are looking for answers after explicit hate speech was scrawled on a campus bathroom wall and discovered Friday.
A student using a men’s washroom on the third floor of the library building informed security of graffiti on the inside of a bathroom stall.
The message referenced the “stealing of Palestine’s land” and called for Jews, Israel and its supporters to “burn in hell,” alongside other hateful statements.
Ryerson group Students Supporting Israel (SSI) posted a photo of the graffiti on Facebook.
“This is hate speech in its finest form and we want to reassure all of our members, supporters and the Ryerson community that this isn’t being taken lightly,” the group wrote in its Facebook post. “No one should be subjected to a message like this. We will never stand for anti-Semitism or being intimidated off of the same campus in which we belong.”
Shawna Gorsky, president of the Ryerson branch of SSI, told The Ryersonian she saw the photo after a friend texted it to her.
“It’s pretty scary if I’m being honest,” she said. “It really is attacking a specific group of people. As someone who is a Ryerson community member, regardless of my background, it really upsets me. Especially in a campus like Ryerson that prides itself on being such a multicultural community.”
Ryerson president Sheldon Levy issued a statement Wednesday confirming the Toronto Police Service and the university’s Investigations and Crime Prevention Office are investigating.
“As a community, we are shocked and saddened,” Levy wrote. “Graffiti of this nature is absolutely unacceptable at Ryerson and has no place on our campus or anywhere else. We are a community that takes pride in our openness, diversity and making everyone feel at home. We are committed to providing a civil and safe environment which is free of discrimination, harassment and hate, and is respectful of the rights, responsibilities, well-being and dignity of all of its members.”
Tanya Poppleton, manager of Security and Emergency Services at Ryerson, said security covered the graffiti with paper immediately after it was reported. It took until Monday before Ryerson staff scrubbed it off.
Involving the Police
Poppleton said the police are always contacted when a “hate-related or hate-based crime” is reported.
This is the second high-profile incident targeting Ryerson’s Jewish community this year. In April, Hadas Hait, former president of SSI Ryerson, alleged she was spat at while holding an Israeli flag and filming a school project on campus.
Ryerson should be playing a larger role in educating students on tolerance, said Rebecca Katzman, vice-president of SSI Ryerson.
“It seems like people aren’t educated about anti-Semitism,” she said. “There should be programs to educate people about not being hateful toward any group.”
Ann Whiteside, Ryerson’s discrimination and harassment prevention officer, said hate speech is a serious concern on campus.
“We would be living in a horror” if it were to go unchecked, Whiteside said.
“This group being targeted today could be any group tomorrow,” she said. “When these things get reported, we act on it and get it down fast, fast, fast.”
The police have not responded to a request for comment.