Concordia is rife with instances of racial profiling

Photo by Steven Depolo from Creative Commons.

Campus security allegedly profiles mature Concordia student

As a 20-year-old Caucasian woman, I’ve never personally experienced racial profiling. But when it happened to one of my friends, it prompted me to do some research. Profiling on university campuses by campus security and law enforcement is a reality for minority students, and it needs to end. Students need to stop feeling unsafe in their place of learning out of fear of being profiled by campus security.

Profiling may seem like a broad and scary topic, so let’s go back to the basics and define it. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, profiling is, “the act or practice of regarding particular people as more likely to commit crimes because of their appearance, social class, race, etcetera.”

It all began a few weeks ago, on Oct. 14, when Concordia student Nigel Ramasawmy contacted me after he felt he had been the victim of profiling by Concordia’s campus security. He had been standing in the Hall building, waiting for a friend, when a campus security guard approached him and began questioning him about why he was standing there.

When Ramasawmy asked the guard why he was being questioned, the security guard claimed that another student had made complaint about Ramasawmy but wouldn’t disclose the nature of the complaint. Eventually, the security guard just walked away, never having asked Ramasawmy to see his student ID. While this may seem like a normal interaction where the guard was just doing his job, it is necessary to point out that Ramasawmy, as mature student of minority descent, felt targeted and unsafe.

This appears to be a case of profiling, but according to Fo Niemi, executive director and co-director from the Center for Research Action on Race Relations’ (CRARR), this is not the only time an older student was profiled.

CRARR is currently investigating a case involving Concordia’s security intercepting, photographing and banning a black woman from accessing the EV building. This case “also involves social profiling because the woman was treated as a homeless person, as she walked in with many bags and she is overweight, in her 40s,” said Niemi in an email. “[The case] is still before the [Quebec] Human Rights Commission” he added.

According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), profiling is considered a violation of a person’s human rights, and the OHRC has reported that profiling, specifically racial profiling, is not an effective way to stop or prevent crime. Yet, this violation is regularly committed by law enforcement and other authoritative figures.

Why should a student ever feel victimized by their own campus security? It may be security’s job to keep us safe, but profiling students and jeopardizing their personal safety is definitely not the way to go. If universities want to become the safe and accepting places they claim to be, any and all forms of profiling need to end.

In both cases of profiling at Concordia discussed, the form of profiling has been social. Sadly, race is often an underlying factor in on-campus profiling cases, like the York University sexual assault case.

The Toronto Star reported in 2012 that after multiple cases of sexual assault at York University, police on campus began to stop and question students who met only one part of the perpetrator’s descriptionthat he was black.

In the article, Alexandra Williams, the president of the York United Black Student Alliance said, “they’re going up to young, black men who are no taller than five-foot-three or five-foot-four, and asking them to empty their pockets and show them their identification, under the pretext that they look too young to be on campus.” The perpetrator was described as being between five-foot-seven and five-foot-ten.

While this may just seem like an overzealous officers, it could be they were just stopping every black York University student because in their subconscious minds, all black people, specifically black men, are from the same social and racial group as the rapists, and therefore are all suspects.

I don’t blame the campus security guards—this mindset is a modern reality that has been formed over time. Minority groups are deemed criminals because of societal racism that continues to endure today. In a report published by the Canadian Federal Corrections System, visible minorities are overrepresented in Canada’s prison system. The report said that while Aboriginal people in Canada make up approximately three per cent of Canada’s total population, they make up 18 per cent of Canada’s prison population.

While I want to believe Concordia’s campus security is not purposely profiling older students—the profiling on all levels—whether social, racial, or other, needs to stop. A Caucasian woman like myself should have the same possibility of being stopped as any other person who attends this university.

Not only does profiling have a detrimental effect on our prison system, it interferes with students who are simply trying to learn. Campus security needs to turn towards alternative methods to ensure our security, rather than singling out minority groups and suspecting them of crimes.

While I have never felt victimized by any form of law enforcement, some people are often unjustifiably persecuted. No one has control over where they are from or what they look like, and it should not be something that they are singled out for. I can’t imagine being singled out as I walked to class simply because of my race, how I dress or my age. This is a reality in our multicultural society should cease to exist.  


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