Thorneloe University uses 'hate crime' vandalism to talk about racism

Recent vandalism at Thorneloe University in Sudbury is being labelled as a hate-crime by school officials. One sign stated that "a feminist professor works here", while the other had Black Lives Matter written on it.

Professors using recent incident to spark discussion among students

Two of the signs defaced at Thorneloe University were on the same faculty door. The top sign is ripped, while the bottom sign was written over in pen. (Twitter)

Early last week, culprits defaced signs posted on the office doors of two faculty members at Thorneloe University in Sudbury, Ontario.

Thorneloe is one of three affiliate schools on the Laurentian University campus.

Two of the signs, which stated "A Feminist Professor Works Here", were ripped. The other poster had #BlackLivesMatter on it. The vandal wrote #AllLivesMatter in pen on that sign.

In a statement, school officials call the vandalism a hate crime, which they claim is both anti-feminist and anti-Black.

The school condemns the vandalism says president Robert Derrenbacker. He says Thorneloe wants to send a message that hatred is not welcome there.

Derrenbacker says Thorneloe officials are now working to make sure the campus is a safe and welcoming environment for students and staff who may be concerned.

The suspect responsible for the incident has not been caught, however school security is conducting an investigation into the vandalism.

This is the first incident of a hate-crime on the school's campus, that Derrenbacker can recall in his more than seven years as president.

Thorneloe University president Rev. Robert Derrenbacker says the school condemns a recent act of vandalism, and is calling it a hate crime. He says Thorneloe values diversity, inclusion and respect. (Jason Turnbull/CBC )

Teachable moment

Derrenbacker says Thorneloe wants to unite behind shared values.

"We also think that this is a good opportunity for us to explore with our students and our residents the importance of fostering a community where we all share in the responsibility to uphold the values of diversity, inclusion and respect," Derrenbacker said.

Professors are already bringing up the incident with their students in class, "to use as an opportunity to discuss what it means to be an inclusive and diverse and respectful learning community."

Specific target

There was no way the posters were accidentally ripped, says Natalie Kouri-Towe a professor in Thorneloe's Women's, Gender and Sexuality studies. 

"It was a pretty specific target of those two messages," she said/

She said no other posters in the hallway of faculty offices were touched.

Kouri-Towe says she's brought up the conversation with her students in class.

It's important not to allow hatred to be normalized in our society.- Natalie Kouri-Towe, Thorneloe's Women's, Gender and Sexuality studies professor

Students told her they don't have a lot of space on campus to have open conversations about larger issues like racism and diversity.

"I would like to see larger communities, campus communities really taking seriously the way that a climate of hatred gets fostered very rapidly and can easily take over the space of a university with these kinds of messages," she said.

Kouri-Towe notes that students, staff and faculty all play an important role in fostering and mobilizing positive messages.

"It's important not to allow hatred to be normalized in our society, that it's important for us to continuously take a stand against all forms of hatred in this way."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?