A university in southeastern Ontario said Monday that it was taking action against those who displayed misogynistic signs at rowdy, unsanctioned student parties over the weekend.
Queen's University said the signs were hung in front of a number of houses on Saturday and the occupants of those homes were told the school would take action under the Student Code of Conduct. The university did not specify what that action would entail.
Patrick Deane, the principal and vice-chancellor for the school in Kingston, Ont., said there's no excuse for acts of sexual harassment or violence, or sexist behaviour of any kind.
"The signs that appeared on Saturday poison the quality of (the university) environment by unwantedly sexualizing campus life, but more particularly by causing the threat of sexual violence to hang over the heads of women and those vulnerable to harassment and assault in our community," said Deane.
"In that way they compromise the right of all members of the university to enjoy a living, learning and working environment that is free from fear, intimidation and anxiety."
A Queen’s spokeswoman confirmed that one of the signs read "Lockdown your daughters not King$ton," while another made a crude joke about students, COVID-19 vaccines and sex.
The partying took place on homecoming weekend, even though the university opted against holding traditional in-person homecoming events for a second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ella Fawcett, a first-year Queen's student, said she attended a large outdoor street party with her friends on Saturday "to go out and see what it's all about."
She said she saw several signs hung up during the gathering – some that were funny, and others that were in bad taste.
"They were kind of ... disrespectful not only to women, but everyone else as well," she said of the signs condemned by the university. "It was really inappropriate."
Police in Kingston called the large weekend gatherings an "aggravated nuisance party" and made several arrests.
The force estimated that roughly 8,000 people gathered on the city's Aberdeen Street on Saturday afternoon. An officer had to be taken to hospital after projectiles were thrown at police.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, police posted a video online showing hundreds of what they described as "intoxicated students" gathered in the dark near the Victoria Park area.
Queen's said it expects members of its university community to be "respectful, considerate and acutely sensitive to the impact of their actions on others."
"Sadly, this weekend revealed that amongst us there are still problematic and violent assumptions being made about gender that reflect a complete disregard for their impact on individuals and indeed, our entire community," Deane said.
A survey on sexual violence on Ontario university campuses conducted in 2018 indicated Queen's had the second highest rate of reported sexual harassment and ranked fourth for the prevalence of sexual assault.
Late last month, students at Queen's organized a walkout to support survivors of sexual violence at universities across Ontario.
That followed several allegations of sexual assault that surfaced at Western University, in London, Ont. Police in that city have said they received four complaints of on-campus sexual assaults at Western.
The force has also been investigating online allegations of drugging and sexual assaults at a Western student residence but said earlier this month that it had received no formal reports on the matter. Police said they would keep the investigation open.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 18, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Noushin Ziafati, The Canadian Press