As you know, a little over a week ago, reports of violent anti-Semitic tweets sent out by Haaris Khan surfaced, striking fear in the minds of many students. In these messages, Khan openly expresses his regret for attending a Conservative McGill screening not equipped with an M-16, which would have allowed him to kill the “Jews” and “WASPs” in attendance. A dozen or so similar calls for violence, which I will not list, as you have surely read them, have also been posted. Though I am neither Jewish nor Protestant, I have personally felt great fear and outrage toward the hateful comments made by Mr. Khan. However, I understood that these were only a single student’s opinion, and that surely, the school would take a strong stance regarding these threats. I was wrong.
On March 17, I opened my McGill email to find a rather unsettling message sent on your behalf. Reading the title (Disturbing Messages – Propos Troublants), I felt reassured to know that the school didn’t take Mr. Khan’s threats lightly. Needless to say, this reassurance quickly turned to disillusionment and disheartenment as I realized that the article reassured students that McGill would take a strong stance against “disturbing messages,” but that Khan’s threats did not qualify as such.
Throughout the email, you have made numerous references to the importance of avoiding “false alarms that could lead to complacency in the events of real threats in the future,” and that if the messages posed a “real threat, we [you] would have taken a very different action.”
Mr. Mendelson, since when are repeated, direct threats, advocating the violent murder of a selected group of people not real threats? If they aren’t such, what does constitute a real threat? Khan explicitly declared his murderous intent: how much realer can it get?
The University’s brushing off of these tweets as harmless false alarms is quite simply preposterous. Had school officials at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Kent State, and Dawson College –the list goes on – received such privileged information, horrendous tragedies may have been avoided. We, here at McGill, have had the opportunity of discovering a student’s hateful, violent intentions before blood was spilt on campus. The truth of the matter is that shooters at the aforementioned schools never showed any more serious signs foreshadowing the impeding massacres than Khan has. News of shooters’ hatred and violent attitudes only emerged following the crimes. Schools were always “shocked” that those students would commit such atrocities. Does the McGill administration really have better insight into which students pose real threats?
Beyond the labelling of murder accusations as essentially minor, non-threatening inconveniences, what most troubles me is that, in your own words, “what we have ended up dealing with is a downside of social media.” Long gone are the days where we are only inconvenienced after the fact; a real downside indeed. Ironically, I thought that hearing of calls for mass murder before they actually occurred would have been the one upside of social media. Wrong again.
Mr. Mendelson, I have waited a week before writing this letter in the hopes of discovering an example of a more serious threat to student security than explicit murderous declarations. Other than the actual carrying out of these threats – at which point we can both agree it will be too late for you to take action – I have failed. Luckily for me, this is but a minor, unimportant failure. A failure to protect my student body, and prevent a future Columbine, would have been far more serious, and tragic.
This article may not reflect the views of the Prince Arthur Herald.