The Ukrainian Students’ Society at the University of Victoria says it has advised university security that it’s holding a general meeting today, in the wake of incidents its members believe amount to harassment.
A member who asked not to be identified said the group took the precautionary step in case someone from outside the group turned up to cause problems.
The society has released a statement saying it is “deeply concerned by the drastic increase in harassment and hate speech directed toward Ukrainian students” at UVic in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine last February.
The group, which has about 50 members, said it is joined by Victoria’s Ukrainian community in calling on UVic and the UVic Students’ Society to act.
The students pointed to a September Facebook post by a member of the Young Communist League that called the Ukrainian students supporters of fascism and antisemitism.
An attempt to file a formal complaint with the university was met with a suggestion to find a “middle ground,” something the Ukrainian students said would lead to “no accountability” for what was said.
Tyson Strandlund of the Young Communist League said members have never made threats, and maintain an anti-war stance, consistently calling for a peaceful political settlement to the war in Ukraine.
But the Ukrainian students said that with no immediate action taken by the university or students’ society, anti-Ukrainian sentiment was allowed to “fester” and increase.
They say they were accosted by an unidentified person Jan. 18 at a table they had set up in UVic’s Student Union Building, and some society papers from the table had the words “Nazi scum” printed on them.
The students’ concerns have grown through the fall semester amid anonymous emails and online comments disparaging the society, sometimes with reference to fascism.
“We’re concerned because it’s the same rhetoric that Russia is using to justify its invasion,” the Ukrainian Students’ Society member said.
UVic president Kevin Hall said in a statement that he has asked that an investigation be launched into the Ukrainian students’ complaints under the UVic Discrimination and Harassment Policy.
“This behaviour is not — and will not — be tolerated at UVic,” Hall said.
“We’re committed to creating a campus that is safe, supportive and inclusive. When incidents like the ones raised by members of the Ukrainian Students’ Society occur, we as an institution need to take a hard look at how this happened and amend policies, approaches or processes that don’t align with our vision for the campus. ”
In a statement, the UVic Students’ Society board of directors said “acts of harassment” directed toward the Ukrainian Students Society during UVSS Clubs and Course Union Days are “unacceptable and we condemn it in the strongest terms,” adding: “This statement of support is overdue, and we apologize for that.
“We stand in solidarity with Ukrainian students, many of whom have been affected more severely by this war than most of us can fathom.”