Since the inciting incident at Halloween pub night on Oct. 30, BUSU and Brock University Administration have been working to correct the blackface costume controversy.
A simple Google search about this situation brings headlines ranging from “Brock University will not discipline blackface costume winners” to “BUSU accepts responsibility for blackface incident” at the forefront of new coverage. The Toronto Sun, Hamilton Spectator, St. Catharines Standard and the CBC have also since released articles pertaining to the event, consequently blaming and labelling Brock University as an institution that condones racist behaviour.
This is the second time that Brock has come under media scrutiny this year, with the “Honk if you’re dropping off your daughter” sign during Residence Move-In Day causing unrest on Aug. 31. The Halloween incident also comes at a crucial time for the university, as high school students are now preparing to apply to post-secondary education. With having been heavily criticized by community members and the media for not disciplining the individuals that were involved, including those who allowed the students to even participate in the contest, Brock could possibly face a decline in interest from current high school students.
Students have also taken to social media to voice their opinions about a similar incident that happened at Isaac’s in 2007 and how Brock University Students’ Union has been handling the situation, with feelings ranging from disappointment to down right outrage.
Brock graduate and Student Justice Centre (SJC) Supervisor Brandon Vrysen released a statement following these online discussions on Nov. 5, changing the conversation from antagonizing to encouraging education.
“Although it seems unlikely that the students meant to be offensive or malicious, there is always room for education,” said Vrysen. “Our services are available for training on this, or any other topic related to social justice. If anyone feels victimized, or has ideas for how to address this or other instances of racism at Brock going forward, they can come talk to us.”
Individuals from competing universities in the GTA have also commented, specifically Dr. Bonny Ibhawoh from McMaster University in Hamilton, in an article by CBC.
“Incidents like this, gestures like this, cannot be seen outside of social and historical context,” said Ibhawoh to CBC. “To understand why this would be so offensive to African Americans or African Canadians, one has to look at the history.”
In contrast to Vrysen and Ibhawoh, one of Jamaica’s actual members of the Olympic bobsled team Dudley Stokes, weighed in on whether or not he found the costume offensive, during News Talk 610 CKTB broadcast on Nov. 6.
“I can promise you, nine out of ten of these guys have no mal intent, they have not a racist bone in their body and have no intent to ridicule anybody,” said Stokes.
Both BUSU statements, as well as Brock Administration’s media release inadvertently echoed Stokes’ comment that the intention of both the staff and students involved was far from racism. BUSU President Roland Erman relayed the status of the situation and the efforts that he has been involved in within the last week in correcting the issue. See above for more information.
Erman and the costumed declined to comment for The Brock Press. Visit brockpress.com for more info in response to the incident.