Nova Scotia

Dalhousie withdraws disciplinary action against Masuma Khan over 'white fragility' Facebook post

Dalhousie University is withdrawing disciplinary action against a student over a post she made to Facebook in the summer about Canada 150 celebrations.

Official says incident shows need for open talks about policies to support freedom of expression

Dalhousie University student Masuma Khan will not face a disciplinary hearing for her Facebook post reading: 'white fragility can kiss my ass. Your white tears aren't sacred, this land is.' (Stephanie Clattenburg/CBC)

Dalhousie University is withdrawing disciplinary action against a student over a post she made to Facebook in the summer about Canada 150 celebrations.

A complaint was made against student union vice-president Masuma Khan, who posted "white fragility can kiss my ass. Your white tears aren't sacred, this land is."

Khan had been facing possible disciplinary action from the Halifax school over the post that expressed her frustrations with Canada 150 celebrations.

The university's vice-provost of student affairs, Arig al Shaibah, said in a statement released Wednesday the incident "demonstrated the need for an open, thorough discussion on campus about the appropriate policies and processes to support freedom of expression."

'Campus dialogue' to be launched

Over the summer, the student union voted not to participate in Canada 150 celebrations. When the motion passed, Khan faced a backlash. That's when she posted her comments on Facebook.

The university received a complaint about Khan's comment and proceeded with a formal discipline process after Khan declined a proposed informal resolution — undergoing counselling and writing a reflective essay.

Arig al Shaibah, Dalhousie University's vice-provost of student affairs, says a 'campus dialogue series' will be launched. (Robert Short/CBC)

"If we are fundamentally trying to achieve respectful dialogue, critical dialogue and a sense of inclusion, my decision is about actually pausing, stopping the course of action now and actually pivoting to thinking about this as beyond the individuals that have been involved in this particular incident," said al Shaibah said in an interview with CBC News.

Al Shaibah said she has engaged a small team of students and faculty members to advise and assist in facilitating a "campus dialogue series" to be launched with internal and external experts.

Khan says input ignored

Khan said she was not part of the small group of students al Shaibah engaged with about the campus dialogue series. She said the university has yet to reach out to her personally.

"We are giving them [the university] opportunities to listen and opportunities to partake in this change but it doesn't seem to be happening," said Khan. She and her lawyer only found out about the vice-provost's decision minutes before it was made public, Khan said.

While she said part of her is relieved she won't be facing senate disciplinary action, she continues to deal with fallout from the incident.

"It doesn't stop these messages from pouring in. It doesn't stop the conversations that we're having. It doesn't stop the fact that systemic racism happens on our campus, and it doesn't stop that the university still isn't dealing with that," said Khan.

"The reality is this doesn't end for me. I'm still getting those hateful messages, I'm still being told to go back, I'm still being called a terrorist."

Khan said she will be considering her options on how she can hold the university accountable "for what they allowed to happen."

"I would like the conversation to go back to where it started and that's talking about reconciliation through solidarity with Indigenous people, learning about the territory that we're on," said Khan.


Anjuli Patil


Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.

With files from Tom Murphy