Violent online threats against women put University of Toronto police on alert
Critics say university didn't give students, staff enough detail about 'abhorrent' threats
The University of Toronto has increased its campus police presence following violent online threats against women and feminists — though a Toronto Police investigation has not identified a "credible threat."
The university warned students and staff about the threats on Thursday, although critics say it hasn't done enough to inform those at risk about the specific nature of the threats.
"People are very shocked to not only hear about the threats, but to learn about the way U of T has informed the U of T population about it," PhD candidate and teaching assistant Marianna Reis told Matt Galloway on CBC Radio's Metro Morning.
She said the initial message sent by the university only vaguely alluded to the threats, which were originally posted in the comments section of the site BlogTO on Sept. 5. The threats have been removed.
A subsequent email sent by CUPE 3902 to University of Toronto teaching assistants specified the threats were made against sociology and women's studies classes. It also reminded union members they have the right to refuse work if they feel unsafe.
"The wording and content of the threats are beyond abhorrent," union chair Ryan Culpepper said in a memo to union members.
"All members, but especially those who identify as women and those who work in the named departments, should be aware and careful, and of course all of us should look out for one another."
Students on guard
A student who spoke to CBC's Linda Ward on Friday morning says she was aware of the threats and was concerned.
"I do feel like I have to be more cautious," she said. "I'm listening to my music right now, maybe that's something I should stop. It's my first time living away from home."
"I have to take it seriously," said Marianna Reis. "It's not like there haven't been things in my own lifetime that have made me be fearful," she added, referring to a 2014 shooting and stabbing incident in Isla Vista, Calif. where six UC Santa Barbara students were killed.
"There are examples of this kind of violence being enacted against women on campuses," Reis said.
Anyone who spots suspicious activity on campus was urged to contact campus police.
The University of Toronto warned its students, faculty and staff about the threats on Thursday and said it's working with the Toronto Police Service and Peel Regional Police to find out who is behind the anonymous threats, made by someone using the screen name "KillFeminists."
The Toronto police cyber crime unit is investigating the threats. No credible threat has been identified so far, but the investigation will continue.
Campus security has also increased patrols, the university said.
"We take these threats very seriously and want to ensure that we have a safe campus community," U of T said in its memo.
- An earlier version of this story stated the students were killed on the UC Santa Barbara campus. The incidents occurred in nearby Isla Vista, Calif. The story also stated the threats were originally posted on Reddit. In fact, they were posted in the comments section of the site BlogTO.
Sep 11, 2015 1:51 PM ET