Another month, another classic Western apology.
Last week a series of angry posts flooded social media, condemning an English professor’s use of the N-word during a lecture on racial language.
Western University has been the reluctant subject of many national headlines this year, featuring public incidents where bigoted and derogatory language has been used by members of the university’s community.
We've had one convocation speaker reference a Playboy article from the ‘70s, calling his audience of students attractive, and another incident the very next ceremony — where the speaker reminisced about students thanking fathers for "dropping off their virgin daughters."
And let's not forget the sexist banners that decorated Broughdale Avenue on Fake Homecoming.
It may seem in this flurry of ugly news that Western’s obvious problems are worse than elsewhere. But these incidents happen at all universities, and rarely get the attention they deserve. What Western really boasts is a unique capacity for being bigoted in public.
Each headline illustrates that Western has failed to learn from past mistakes. The same issues with derogatory language and ideas are repeating themselves, thrusting Western into the national spotlight again and again.
Western’s inevitable responses have been tepid — terse apologies and statements filled with watered-down empathy.
Western needs to be doing more. Screening speeches prior to convocation ceremonies or, in the most recent case, educating professors on what they can and cannot say in a classroom setting are preventative measures Western could, and should, be taking to ensure everyone feels comfortable on our campus.
There is a clear difference between calling someone a derogatory term and referencing the term itself; many of the men at the centre of Western’s controversies have urged that their intentions were not malicious.
But intent does nothing to change the result — people were hurt. At the end of the day, we don’t get to be the judge of whether or not someone feels pain.
While Western is responsible for these mistakes, students are too. Our culture is what led students, some of them women, to put up the bedsheets on Broughdale with misogynistic messages.
And within this culture, there is a divide on what constitutes a racist or sexist comment. It's easy to argue that giving too much attention to incidents where there is no malicious intent belittles incidents where there is.
But this is true only if you assume racism or sexism are limited problems, not the deeply-rooted threats that stretch from the most overt to the most accepted.
It should surprise no one that apologies and statements have done nothing to improve the situation on our campus. They aren’t enough. Western and its students have long faced bigotry — in ways these incidents only begin to illustrate.