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A Queen’s University trustee has apologized for attending a coronavirus-themed party over the weekend, and the university’s principal has warned of an “insidious social challenge” emerging on campus in light of the outbreak, which originated in China.
Photos of the party were originally published by the university’s student newspaper, The Queen’s Journal, on Monday, allegedly showing undergraduate trustee Tyler MacIntyre and others dressed in a surgical mask and drinking Corona-brand beers.
Global News has not been able to access those photos.
But in a Facebook post published on Monday, MacIntyre apologized for the attending the party on Feb. 1.
“This action was in poor taste and I apologize,” he wrote.
“I am aware that my participation implicitly made light of a serious issue that affects many people, both inside and outside of the Queen’s University community.”
Global News attempted to contact MacIntyre and reached out to the board of trustees, but has received no response.
MacIntyre’s statement, posted to Facebook, also said he was aware that there is currently a “stigma facing Chinese students at Queen’s at this time.”
“I vehemently oppose any marginalization of the Chinese community on campus, and I deeply regret any legitimization my attendance provided.”
When asked what their take on the party, especially considering a student trustee attended, Queen’s Alma Mater Society said they are starkly against the spirit of the party.
“The Coronavirus party directly went against the AMS’s values, and the values of our community,” said an emailed statement sent to Global News from the Alma Mater Society on Tuesday. “It is important to understand and remember that there are members of our Queen’s community who have been personally impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and spreading misinformation or making light of it is not what we should be doing.”
The statement also noted that as a trustee, MacIntyre is not an employee of the society, and is rather “answerable to the community who elected them into the position.”
Also on Monday, principal of Queen’s University Patrick Deane posted a statement warning students of an “insidious social challenge” in light of the novel coronavirus in China.
“Ignorantly ostracizing Chinese and Asian students will rip apart the beautiful tapestry of our international campus and must be repudiated by everyone,” Deane’s statement read.
“Now is a time to come together and care for one another, with dignity and respect,”
The statement does not directly mention the coronavirus party, nor does it mention any specific incidence of bigotry on campus.
Deane has yet to comment on the party itself.
Nevertheless, when The Queen’s Journal posted their story about the coronavirus party on the popular Facebook group Overheard at Queen’s, a debate broke out, and one of the moderators, Aimee McCurdy, stepped in, saying the page would not be tolerating racist comments.
“A lot of these comments are straight up racist. I will block you and won’t delete your comments from the post so that you will never have the chance to remove them from the internet if you choose to make racist remarks,” a Facebook comment from McCurdy read.
One commenter said she was extremely disturbed by the party.
“My country is being ravaged by a horrible tragedy during in the most culturally important time of our calendar, and you want to make levity of our suffering?”
In response, several other commenters blamed Chinese hygiene for the virus.
“Maybe lets not eat bats, rats and other small pest animals, improve hygiene standards, then you can complain about how we’re being unfair about it,” a Liam Gavaghan posted.
When asked why he decided to comment on the situation, Gavaghan later said: “I don’t think racism against Chinese people should happen because of the Wuhan virus…the comments I made were about the unsanitary nature of food in China.”
Another commenter, Julien Guyon, posted the following:
“To be fair, your country’s poor hygiene is to blame for this outbreak and you know it.”
Guyon later told Global News he commented because he felt the student trustee was being judged too quickly.
“I think we need to be careful before making these speculations which target an individual who attended a private event. We have no idea what the student’s intentions were,” Guyon said when asked why he decided to comment as he did.
Global News reached out to the other commenters to ask for for further comment about their posts and about the party, but they did not want to speak.
In the end, principal Deane statement asked students and faculty on campus to treat “one another with dignity and respect.”
“This virus does not discriminate, and our greatest weapon against it is knowledge and correct, preventive action.”