MONTREAL – A former McGill University student claims he was the victim of repeated harassment and intimidation on campus last fall that ended with a death threat.
The person allegedly responsible for the abuse is his former professor.
“The main thing that really scared me is somebody to tell you that they want you dead,” said Amr El-Orabi, who fled back home to Egypt just days after the alleged threat.
El-Orabi moved to Montreal last May to start his Master’s degree in Natural Resource Sciences at McGill University. He worked for five years in his hometown of Cairo to save up enough money to come to Canada. But once he got here, he said his dreams were dashed by his supervising professor, Gary Dunphy.
“He would make fun of my beliefs, he would make fun of Muslims and how they do their prayers, and he would do that in front of me,” said El-Orabi from his home in Cairo.
The 28-year-old student said he started feeling harassed about a month into his program. He claimed on a daily basis he faced insults ranging from racial slurs to questions about his sexuality. El-Orabi insisted Dunphy crossed the line more than once.
A close friend suggested he start recording every exchange.
“He is a very sensitive guy, I thought maybe he was being a little sensitive,” said his friend, who did not want to be named. “But absolutely not. I was disgusted, disgusted at what I heard. Because of his religion, he doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke, and he’s not with women, which in turn his professor used to put him down and call him a homosexual.”
El-Orabi tried to avoid confrontations and ignore the alleged abuse but, he insisted, it went on for months.
On November 19, El-Orabi approached Dunphy to tell him he was leaving his lab and found another supervising professor.
That’s when things went from bad to worse, according to El-Orabi.
“I tried to step out of his office and he would yell from his office saying, ‘Don’t ever come back, get the (bleep) out of the country.’ This is exactly what he said.”
What was most disturbing for El-Orabi was when Dunphy allegedly uttered a death threat. After asking his professor, “Is there anything else that you want from me now?” as he left his office, he claims Dunphy said, “Yes, your death.”
“I was never going to complain about this because I didn’t want any problems. The day the death threat took place is the day when I started to complain,” said El-Orabi.
Dunphy did not return repeated calls to his Macdonald campus office requesting an interview but on Thursday, students attending his last lecture of the semester asked him to respond to the allegations.
Three students also entered his classroom holding a sign that read, “Racism at McGill has to stop! Racist Profs out!”
According to the McGill Daily, he refused to comment and said, ” my employer has asked me not to until this thing’s through, you’re not getting any more than that, my friends.”
Protesters then followed Dunphy to his car chanting, ” Hey ho, racist profs have got to go.”
The reaction online continues to pour in on Globalnews.ca and on Reddit, a social news and entertainment website where users can submit content.
Global News reader Aaminah Abdulqadir wrote the following:
“I cant believe these kind of people teach in our universities they give Canada a bad reputation… I think El Orabi should be compensated for all the difficulties he has gown [sic] through. McGill needs to clean its house.”
El-Orabi said McGill’s campus security and faculty members listened to the recording in question. He said they asked him not to go public and not to go home alone that night.
In a letter to El-Orabi, the associate dean of the department wrote: “I assure you that we are taking this incident very seriously.” The faculty’s dean later wrote: “I am of course very sorry about the incident.”
Four months after the fact, El-Orabi still doesn’t feel safe coming back to Montreal. He has asked McGill for some sort of confirmation that something was done about the alleged death threat.
But Dunphy is still teaching at the faculty of Agricultural and Environmental sciences and all the administration will say at this point is that appropriate measures were taken.
“The idea of a death threat against a student is disturbing. It’s something that the university would take very seriously,” said Morton Mendelson, McGill’s Deputy Provost.
Mendelson insisted several policies are in place to protect students and staff but confidentiality clauses prevent them from revealing which measures were taken in this case.
“Professors can have a letter put in their file, they can have a reprimand and there can be suspension of some kind,” explained Mendelson.
El-Orabi still has doubts. “They refused to give me this confirmation,” he said in Cairo. “I don’t want to be scared while I’m there so this is why I felt forced to stay here.”
Click below to listen to the full recording Amr El-Orabi says he took of a conversation with him and professor Gary Dunphy that ended with a death threat.