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Hateful graffiti poses ongoing problem

By Saima Asad, March 7 2017 —

Bathroom graffiti has always made for interesting reading material, but offensive content was recently found in bathrooms in the Science buildings at the University of Calgary.

According to U of C ecology professor Jessica Theodor, racist graffiti is common in ground-floor bathrooms across many science buildings, including Biological Sciences, Science Theatres, Earth Sciences and Science A and B.

Theodor is the Biological Sciences representative on the Faculty of Science’s Equity and Diversity Standing Committee. She said racist graffiti has been brought up in discussion several times.

“It had come up in Equity and Diversity because that’s a really hostile climate for any minority members who would see those,” she said. “There’s a substantial number of Jews and Muslims on campus and that stuff shouldn’t be happening.”

Theodor sees this as part of a larger conversation surrounding diversity on campus.

“The political climate in the United States seems to be affecting things in Canada. There’s increased incidents of a lot of intolerance,” she said.

Students’ Union Faculty of Science representative Balraj Brar said he has encountered graffiti depicting Nazi symbols and Islamophobic graffiti. Brar said he became aware of growing intolerance on campus after Theodor brought up anti-semitic graffiti in a committee meeting in early December 2016.

“From there on I actually started noticing that this is an issue around campus in general,” Brar said. “Recently my friends also mentioned seeing graffiti in bathrooms, especially the stalls. I became aware of this issue as well when I noticed some in the second floor washrooms of Biological Sciences.”

Brar brought the issue up with the university’s Facilities Management department in early February.

“In a forwarded email it said that it will be taken care of immediately. I checked on it early this week and it hadn’t been removed,” he said.

Theodor says this is not the first time Facilities Management did not respond to an issue urgently. The graffiti she brought up in early December depicted a three-by-three foot swastika.

“In the late fall, I had noticed walking in from the parking lot by Professional Faculties building, a big swastika on the sidewalk,” she said. “I called Facilities that morning and posted to my Facebook about it. Facilities called back later in the day to verify the location and when I left the university at 5:00 p.m. it was still there. I was not happy about that.”

While Theodor does not expect those behind the graffiti to be caught, she does believe students should be made more aware of the effect it has on their peers. She says Facilities Management should treat these kinds of situations more urgently.

“I think Facilities needs to be a lot more responsive in getting rid of it. And I think it’s an issue we need to actually make students aware of how they’re making other people feel,” Theodor said.

Facilities Management could not be reached for comment at press time.


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