Laurentian University dean resigns after backlash for offensive tweet
Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont. (CTV Northern Ontario)
SUDBURY -- A dean at Sudbury's Laurentian University has stepped down over two weeks after making a racially "inappropriate and offensive" tweet.
The university's president, Robert Hache announced Monday that Dr. David Lesbarreres has stepped down from his five-year term as the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
Lesbarreres was appointed to the position July 2016, but that came crashing to a halt after he tweeted using the hashtag #AllLivesMatter, sparking outrage from the school community.
"Lesbarreres will be stepping down from his day-to-day functions as Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies for an indeterminate period, effective immediately," Hache said. "Interim arrangements for leadership of the Faculty of Graduate Studies will be communicated shortly. In the meantime, the functions of the dean will be overseen by the Vice-President, Academic and Provost, Dr. Serge Demers."
The original tweet has been removed, but several people took screenshots of it.
This was shortly after he had responded to a tweet from Peter Soroye, a Black PhD Biology student at University of Ottawa, about a racist comment said to the student:
On June 9, after backlash on Twitter, Lesbarreres tweeted an apology:
The same day, Hache issued a statement acknowledging the tweet and condemning racism on campus:
"Yesterday, our dean of Graduate Studies issued an inappropriate and offensive tweet. He has since apologized publicly for his comments which, by his own admission, have hurt many people in our Laurentian community and beyond. The University is following-up on this expeditiously and with the utmost care and attention.
That said, I wish to reiterate that I condemn any racism on campus. Laurentian is a campus that does its utmost to ensure that we are safe and inclusive."
Despite the Twitter apology, Laurentian's Graduate Students' Association tweeted a call-to-action demanding the school make the dean's consequences public:
Hache said Laurentian has the following resources available to students, staff and faculty which can assist with concerns, questions, and/or complaints with respect to racism, discrimination and/or harassment:
- Counselling services on campus are available to all students by contacting (705)-675-1151 ext., 6506 or emailing Counselling@laurentian.ca. All resources are available at https://laurentian.ca/counselling.
- Counselling is also available through the Indigenous Sharing and Learning Centre by contacting email@example.com.
- We encourage Laurentian University’s international students to access the keep.me.SAFE program by downloading the app (My SSP or by calling 1-844-451-9137).
- Laurentian University faculty and staff can access confidential support services through our Employee and Family Assistance Program (the contact information is available on LUnet).
- The Equity, Diversity and Human Rights Office is also a resource for all members of the Laurentian University community. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an appointment, or visit https://laurentian.ca/human-rights to learn more."
On June 12, Laurentian University's Graduate Students' Association issued a statement on anti-black racism:
"The last week has confronted us with striking headlines of violence against Black communities, a powerful reminder that we must stand alongside them in Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere in pursuit of justice, addressing systemic racism and redressing inequities wherever we might encounter them," Hache said in a separate undated statement. "Laurentian University recognizes the immense pain and the grief that Black communities experience and feel when faced with injustice. I write to you today to reaffirm my solidarity with and commitment to the Black community."
The full statement can be read here.
Aaron St. Pierre, president of the Laurentian Graduate Student Association, said in an email many graduate students were "deeply upset" by the comments.
"Our call to action was in response to the outpouring we saw and received via email, social media, and in discussions with Laurentian community members ranging from students to faculty to staff members," St. Pierre said.
"We're happy that Laurentian has committed itself since then to address systemic racism, and see the dean stepping down as a step towards that. We wish Dr. Lesbarres well, and support him in recognizing his error and in his efforts to work towards deepening his understanding on this issue."
More needs to be done, St. Pierre said, and they hope the university will make changes.
"We've suggested that mandatory training be implemented for all Laurentian staff and increased funding for the Equity, Diversity, and Human Rights Department at Laurentian to help provide this training," he said.