Editor’s note: This story contains language and graphic descriptions of violent, historical events that may disturb some readers. Discretion is advised.
The University of Victoria says it “deeply regrets” the use of racist language in one of its classes last week after the incident was reported by a student.
On Friday, the group Black Vancouver shared a post on social media from a University of Victoria student who said her instructor, Joel Hawkes, was using “the n-sloppy when she read a racist book aloud” on Sept. 13.
“When I told him he did not have to say that to make his point, he apologized half-ass and said, ‘I thought it would be appropriate to show the brutality,'” reads Black Vancouver’s Instagram post, which captures the student’s statement.
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Global News contacted the student and Black Vancouver for comment, but did not respond at the time of publication.
In an email, Hawkes said he appreciated the “opportunity to respond,” but referred Global News to the university’s public affairs team for further questions.
Karen Johnston, associate director of public affairs at the university, sent a statement saying the instructor apologized to the students in the class “where the unacceptable racial slur and a trigger image were used in connection with the literature examined.”
The student said the incident took place in a “British Modern Fiction” class of about 50 people, none of whom were black except her.
In the post that Black Vancouver shared, she added that all the other students were silent as she confronted Hawkes, who is listed as an instructor in the English department.
The lesson continued with “paintings of slave ships in flames” and “disintegrated slaves” included in the group discussion.
“How should I feel safe in such an environment? How should I feel supported? A place where I PAY a lot of money to participate? ” she asked.
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The student said on social media that she reported the incident to the head of the English department, who spoke to her via Zoom, and reportedly asked her, “What do you want me to do about it?”
On Monday, the university confirmed that an investigation into the incident has been launched.
“The President of English deeply regrets the use of racist language in one of our classes and is taking steps to ensure that such incidents never happen again,” said a statement from Michael Nowlin, President of English. .
“While the English department is signed to take the university’s workshop on anti-racism awareness this autumn, recent events clearly show that we need to do more.”
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In his statement, Johnston wrote that university leaders, including the dean of humanities and Nowlin, are in contact with the “parties involved” to provide support and guidance. Faculty members also receive “additional instructional guidance on teaching difficult and potentially triggering materials in class.”
In its statement posted on the UK Department’s website, Nowlin adds that the department is conducting a “comprehensive curriculum review” to ensure that the course content reflects its commitment to diversity, inclusion and anti-racism.
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“The events of last week and the discussion on social media over the weekend remind us how important this work is and that we need to act quickly,” Nowlin wrote.
“I will work closely with colleagues and the dean to achieve demonstrable changes that support our individual and departmental responsibilities and responsibilities.”
In a memo sent to staff Monday morning, the university’s dean of humanities, Annalee Lepp, further urged all faculty members and associate professors to complete the school’s awareness awareness of racism and indigenous cultural insight training.
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