MUN launches campaign of anti-racism posters, students find them ripped down already

An effort to counteract racist posters at Memorial University is already being attacked, but students say it will only strengthen their resolve.

Campaign in response to at least 3 cases of anti-diversity posters

These posters were circulated at Memorial University last week to combat posters with an anti-immigration and anti-Islam message. Some of them have been torn up. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

As her arms stretched high above her head to tape an anti-racism poster to the wall, Roxanne Dias was shaken by what was in front of her face.

Behind a collage of posters on the bulletin board, there were shreds of other anti-Islamophobia posters.

It's been less than a week since the university began circulating them, and they've already been torn down.

"It's just really sad," said Dias. "It's just promoting a message of peace. Why would you be against that?"

Roxanne Dias spent her afternoon putting up posters around Memorial University campus, and disposing of shreds of posters that were torn up. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The university's students' union launched a campaign against racism on Wednesday, after at least two posters viewed as racist were found since last week.

One urged people to say no to immigration, reading "Stop the invasion," in all capital letters. The other stated "It's okay to be white," and was stapled over top of an anti-racism poster.

President, provost condemn posters

These are the second and third posters reported as being racist at Memorial University in a month.

On Oct. 8, university president Gary Kachanoski spoke out after a poster titled "the Islamic Domination of the West" was found in a few spots around campus.

These are the posters seen around Memorial University that have been deemed racist by the university brass and students' union. (MUNSU35/Twitter)

On Wednesday, university provost Noreen Golfman expressed her concerns about the posters in the MUN Gazette, the administration's online publication.

"This is not a rhetorical exercise; people have been assaulted and killed for no reason other than their religion or their self-identity," she said. "The people who comprise our community deserve the right to feel safe as they go about their work and study."

The students' union, in step with the faculty and graduate students, announced its plans to put up 2,500 posters around campus to fight back against Islamophobia, antisemitism and other forms of racism. They began circulating the posters last week — the same ones Dias found torn up.

Support encouraging Muslim students

It's a campaign that Muslim Students Association welcomes.

"At first it's just sad to see all that [hatred]," said representative Abdulrahim Iqbal. "But, then again, you see all this support and all that [sadness] goes away. We know the the majority of people are with us."

Abdulrahim Iqbal represented the Muslim Students Association at MUN on Wednesday, saying the support they have been shown is uplifting. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The outpouring of support has inspired Iqbal to be a better Muslim, he said, by encouraging people to direct their questions about Islam towards him so he can dispel the falsehoods.

"It's more about peace and more about living in harmony, and not what those posters said we are about."

Students hope to start, not stifle, conversations

The university's tunnels have been a target of the racist messages, as well as the hallways frequented most by international students.

Three students carried a bag of rolled up banners, 10 feet in length, and plastered them along the hallways below the University Centre.

"We're not messing around," one of them said, half-jokingly.

These posters are not here to hurt anyone. They are just here to help people feel more welcome.- Roxanne Dias, student

Dias said they know more will be torn down, defaced or covered up with posters the university has deemed as racist.

But she hopes it will at least start a conversation.

"If you think that racism is OK, that Islamophobia is OK, then find someone you can talk to about Islam," she said. "Find someone you can talk to about race or about ethnicity."

Roxanne Dias says she doesn't see how anyone could object to these posters, which simply call for tolerance. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

"Basically build a conversation, because really these posters are not here to hurt anyone. They are just here to help people feel more welcome."

Tearing them down will only serve to stifle the conversation, she said, and strengthen her resolve.

"I will put 10 up for every one that's torn down," she said.

About the Author

Ryan Cooke

Ryan Cooke works for CBC out of its bureau in St. John's.