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A Facebook status posted by a member of the executive team of the Ryerson Marketing Association (RMA) caused controversy online Thursday.
The status, which was posted by Dan Petz, the RMA’s vice-president of corporate relations, included a rant about “fascist practices disguised as ‘safe spaces.’”
Petz, a third-year commerce student, wrote, “Please if you need a safe space go home, you can be safe there. I am growing sick of this childish nonsense and I didn’t pay thousands of dollars to be coddled like a little bitch. I am not going to take it anymore, and neither should you.”
Screenshots of the status were shared on Facebook, with students expressing concerns over Petz’s inflammatory comments.
Petz, who currently sits on the course unions committee at the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), also ran for a seat on the Ryerson senate this month as the Ted Rogers School of Management representative.
John Sullivan, a third-year RTA school of media student, shared Petz’s status on his own Facebook page, saying that he was worried that an elected representative of a Ryerson course union was denouncing the need for safe spaces on campus.
“If someone has a shitty opinion, that’s fine. But if someone has that shitty opinion as they’re actively trying to get more involved in student life and they express that opinion in ways that aren’t conducive to creating a better environment for students, then that’s when I kind of go, ‘Well hey, if this person is supposed to be a representative of the school, then I’m not really comfortable with that,’” Sullivan said.
Rabia Idrees, the current Ryerson Students’ Union vice-president equity, said that it is “easy for somebody who has never had the need for safe spaces to say that they aren’t necessary.
“For somebody like me, who is racialized and a woman, if I saw something like this in the classroom, and the majority of people had the same kind of mindset, that wouldn’t be a safe space for me,” Idrees said. “That would affect my own learning ability.
“He has not really thought out how this affects all of the other people who are not male, not white, not in a business program and don’t see the world in numbers.”
Alyson Rogers, co-founder of the Ryerson Feminist Collective, said that she finds it “extremely concerning that he is a representative of Ryerson students.”
“If (Petz) is someone who feels he can walk out in the world and feel safe and not have any concerns about his safety, then that’s great, but not everybody has that luxury,” she said.
“That’s actually a huge privilege to have. I think there needs to be some understanding that not everybody has that, so there is a real need for safe spaces on campus,” Rogers said. “A comment like this is extremely insensitive and only takes into account his lived experiences and discounts those of everybody else on this campus.”
The RMA distanced itself from Petz after his comments began to pick up traction on social media, saying in a statement on its Facebook page that the opinions and political views of its team members “are not necessarily in line with that of the (RMA) as an organization.”
Ryerson currently has six equity service centres on campus sponsored by the RSU, including the Racialized Students Collective, RyeAccess, the Centre for Women and Trans People, the Trans Collective, the Good Food Centre and RyePride. As well, the Aboriginal Multipurpose Student Space is a dedicated safe space for aboriginal students.
Petz did not respond to multiple requests for comment.