The University of Windsor has come under increased scrutiny as it has been revealed that student members of the Delta Chi fraternity, which was active on campus, engaged in racist behaviour within private Facebook chat rooms.
The Facebook messages involved racist jokes such as, “I’m okay since I have my white card,” with replies such as, “Do I get treated as a negro?” and the use of the n-word repeatedly by students who were not Black. Although the racist remarks were directed towards Black people, there was also racist language against Indian immigrants and their culture. Screenshots of the chat, including images and videos depicting violence against people of colour, have been published on social media.
“Reading those messages from students who currently attend the University of Windsor made me sick to my stomach,” said Selina McCallum, a University of Windsor alumna and journalist at the STEPS Initiative. “Their comments were absolutely racist and ignorant.”
The presence of racism at Canadian universities is not new, but it has gained increased visibility in recent years as the Black Lives Matters movement has gained momentum. This story of racism at the University of Windsor is, unfortunately, similar to events that have happened on campuses across the country.
“The University of Windsor has a racist past,” McCallum says. “A few students have complained about incidents they have had with Windsor professors, but no actions have been taken. In addition, there are not many Black faculty on campus, which I think is a poor reflection of diversity.”
Claire Mirembe, also an alumna of the university, is organizing a campaign to pressure the Windsor administration to better address these racist incidents. She says that she has been flooded with messages from current and former Windsor students telling stories of members of fraternity members engaging in racist acts.
There have also been claims that some of those students and alumni of the fraternity have access to weapons that they have threatened to use against people of colour.
“There was a picture released of one of the most frequent users of the chat you see in the screenshots, a part of the fraternity, posing in the mirror, holding a semi-automatic weapon with the caption stating ‘Who wants to hunt some negroes?’” Mirembe says.
A video was also released of the members of the group playing with a piece of rope tied like a noose and pretending to hang someone with it. One of the members joked to another Black member that “they were next.”
“They’re making fun of lynching Black and Indian people. It’s just disgusting,” Mirembe says. “To be honest, I did not know the University of Windsor had a racist past until this happened but, then once I started speaking about this fraternity, others have come out with their racist experiences as well…There was a University professor using the n-word in his zoom lectures earlier in the semester, all of these stories coming out are so disheartening.”
University of Windsor President Robert Gordon has put out a statement clarifying that Delta Chi does not have a formal relationship with the university, nor is the fraternity recognized by the university’s student association.
In the statement, Gordon writes: “The University will be immediately suspending any opportunities for this organization to engage with University activities, pending the investigation of these matters. The university has contacted the US-based leadership of Delta-Chi to ensure this matter is handled appropriately and promptly. We have also forwarded this matter to Windsor Police Services.”
Since that statement was made, the US headquarters for the Delta Chi fraternity says it has closed down its Windsor chapter and suspended its members.
But McCallum hopes the university takes additional action. “I really hope that they expel the students to ensure that all other students, especially international students, on campus feel safe and supported.”
McCallum and Mirembe both agree that more action is needed when it comes to addressing and preventing racist behaviour at the university.
“If it is unacceptable, show us that it is not acceptable,” Mirembe says. “We do not want any more apologies, anybody can say sorry.” Instead, individuals like Mirembe are calling for the University of Windsor to take more substantive actions in disciplining students who engage in racist behaviour.
Chantelle Cruzat-Whervin is an associate editor and journalist at Academic Matters.