McGill admin shouldn’t stay mum on alleged death threats

University needs to publicly address student’s threatening tweets


Many people are talking about the tweets posted by McGill University student Haaris Khan earlier this month, with the exception, ironically, of those whose statement is most imperative.

McGill University has not commented on the tweets Khan posted while watching a screening of Indoctrinate U on campus. “I want to shoot everyone in this room,” he tweeted during the event, which was hosted by Conservative McGill and Libertarian McGill. “I should have brought an M16,” he later added.

McGill’s Deputy Provost released a statement only after the McGill Tribune and other news outlets picked up the story. The statement, however, merely justified McGill’s handling of the incident and fell short of actually condemning the spread of potentially violent messages on campus. Bizarrely, the Deputy Provost ended the statement with a paragraph outlining the “downside of social media.”

Khan has since apologized for his tweets in a letter published in the Tribune. “My comments were totally inappropriate and I would never harm my fellow students,” he wrote, adding that his tweets “were meant in jest.” Maybe I just have a lousy sense of humour, but I think there’s a reason clown costumes don’t come with mock M16’s.

What isn’t funny, though, is the formal silence from the McGill administration. Citing Quebec’s privacy laws, McGill refuses to discuss what action, if any, will be taken against Khan. But McGill needs to reassure its students, faculty, and staff that threats of violence—even if “meant in jest”—will not be tolerated on campus. While a commitment to privacy is fine, McGill must also fulfill its obligation to provide a safe space on campus. (And for all the vacuous talk we so often hear about “safe spaces,” here is a situation where it actually seems warranted.) That means assuring everyone on campus (however generally) that threats of violence are completely unacceptable. McGill shouldn’t let its silence do the talking.


McGill admin shouldn’t stay mum on alleged death threats

  1. His apology is vague, and sounds a lot more like “oh crap, I don’t want to be expelled”.

    Quite frankly, there needs to be consequences for actions such as these. McGill should definitely mention the action taken. Not because we need a public “witch hunt”, but because we live in a society where it’s easy to criticize for “too little, too late”. Here is a prime example of when one needs to act now and show that this is not tolerated.

    This is the problem though with the Israeli-Palestine conflict on campus. Events such as Israeli Apartheid Week accomplish little in terms of productive dialogue. It just leads to a “demonizing” of Israel and all those who support it. It does absolutely nothing to resolve the issue. In fact, it makes it worse and it leads to people like Haaris Khan acting in the way he did, which is seemingly acceptable on campus (with little consequences).

  2. “McGill must also fulfill its obligation to provide a safe space on campus.”

    Explain to me how this incident, involving someone venting their anger using extreme/appalling language on Twitter, made McGill any ‘less safe’. Kids say extremely stupid shit on the internet all the time – give me ten seconds and I’ll find you hundreds of tweets with similar language. Why do this person’s words carry particular weight?

  3. @N: Simple.

    Look at past incidents of school shootings. It is quite common for people to post their intentions online before doing it. They do it looking for “support”, or to vent their frustration.

    That is why it is imperative to act on each one of these notes online. If we don’t, it could (but not necessarily) have disastrous consequences. This is a risk we should not take.

    I guarantee you if someone posted a tweet online planning to shoot ANY group on ANY campus, people would act on it seriously. This is NOT an Israeli-Palestine or Jewish issue.

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