“You know the student that stabbed the teacher last week worked with me?…I was traumatized.”
“I can’t lose you so for fuck sake get out and go somewhere else.”
“He was always quiet but how can you know?”
These are some of the things friends of mine, current and former students at the University of Waterloo have said.
It is difficult to write very emotionally about something that did not scare me in the moment. I was not concerned, I was not stressed as Geovanny Villalba-Aleman went into Hagey Hall and targeted a professor of a gender studies course. By the time I found out what was happening, the situation was under control and I was across campus anyways so I didn’t feel a need for concern.
But as more details came out, the more horrific the situation became. He had asked, first, what the class was. He had smiled at realizing this was a gender studies class. He had chased the professor to the back of the room. The students were throwing things at him and escaping from the sole entrance.
There was no alert or warning from the university or the Watsafe system. Watsafe had just tested its system less than an hour before.
Students in and around Hagey Hall were confused and scared and, although there were no fatalities, there was no guarantee people would be safe. The school did not keep its students or faculty safe in a very dangerous situation.
I hope that this situation is not followed with just words.
Although the university cannot be held solely accountable for Villalba-Aleman’s actions, they should be held accountable for their inability to communicate with the community in a timely manner.
Shortly after, the police also stated they believed this was a hate-motivated attack.
Of course, as a woman and someone who has many close friends who don’t fit the gender binary, this was a horrifying realization.
That this intense hatred exists is no surprise, but I never expected it to manifest so violently in our own community. Despite our efforts and activism and education and speeches, one of our community members fostered enough hatred for others’ identities that he hurt others for it.
He did this at the tail-end of Pride month, when 2SLGBTQIA+ folks are celebrated. Pride is a celebration, but it is also a protest, a reminder that we are still fighting for equity.
We have so much more work left to do to make our community safer.
There is no way to know who is thinking what, whose hatred has filled to the brim and is ready to overflow. As such, equity initiatives and education MUST continue throughout the year.
Even if someone does not understand others, the values of diversity and acceptance need to be instilled into the foundations of our community.
They cannot be afterthoughts. They cannot be considered political positions. It is basic human decency and a right to live life freely. This cannot be debatable.