How higher education doesn’t always mean higher learning

The school year is not yet three weeks old, but already it’s been a rough one for Toronto universities.

On Sept. 5, graphic death threats were posted online, targeting feminists at the University of Toronto.

On Sept. 14, posters promoting a “White Students Union” were found around Ryerson University’s own campus, and those of U of T and York University.

The specific incidents seem, so far, to have sputtered out.

Toronto police said they found no “credible threat” behind the misogynistic U of T posts, and all three affected schools tore down the crypto-fascist posters.
There is a lesson to be learned from all this though: the modern urban university campus is perhaps not the bastion of liberal humanistic tolerance we make it out to be. Granted, it may only be a lunatic fringe threatening women and promoting white unity.

(Flickr/Courtesy of Kevin Creamer)

Maybe the author of those hideous online posts was just having a laugh. And maybe the White Students Union people are impotent wack-jobs, unlikely ever to get their Pale Power movement off the ground. But maybe universities are turning out to be just the same as society at large. Which is to say undercut by factions of hateful, angry, backwards citizens.

The mind-boggling figures on campus sexual assaults in Canada should be proof enough of that. Or the lingering presence of anti-abortion groups on campuses across the country. Or the perennial pushback against women’s studies programs. Which is not to say campuses are bad places to be. University is a great, exciting, enlightening, positive, enjoyable, life-changing institution. Everyone should be so lucky as to experience it.

And we as university students, are every day, expanding our minds on social politics, and philosophy and communal living and the optimism of youth. We’re training ourselves to know better, and to do better, than previous generations, and the cracked and prejudiced forces managing the outside world. But before we get out there and start righting wrongs, we must remember to tend our own garden, right here on our own campus. Suffice to say, ignoring online threats and tearing down offensive posters is not going to weed out the bigoted opinions apparently held by at least a few people around here.

The closest thing we have here at The Ryersonian to a solution is to question everything and speak out about anything. If you feel a chill of discrimination, let us know. If you smell some stink of hatred, write us an opinion, pitch us a story. Air out those ugly corners of campus where hatred and intolerance still live. We are a university campus, a place of higher learning, a place that deserves to be tolerant and accepting and safe. We can be better.

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