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University of Waterloo fields questions from staff and students in wake of attack


Nearly three weeks after an attack at the University of Waterloo sent three people to hospital, questions remain about the university’s response.

Police believe the triple stabbing during a gender studies class on June 28 was hate-motivated.

On Monday, the school held seminars to check in with students and staff in the wake of the attack.

The sessions, which were closed to the public and media, gave attendees the opportunity to voice questions or concerns to university administration.

“As is normal after a horrific event like this, we have to take a minute to reflect and learn lessons,” said Nick Manning, associate vice-president of communications at the university, speaking following the session with staff.

“We don't have all of the answers right now, but we're starting to understand more about what happened, to make some progress and to address the fears and concerns that people have."


But many of the people CTV News spoke to who attended the seminars gave the university a harsh grade.

“One of my research areas is risk and crisis management and I don’t think they exercised good crisis management,” said Mary Hardy, a professor in UW’s department of Statistics and Actuarial Science.

Hardy said she was on campus the day of the attack and learned about it through social media.

“I would have liked to have seen structured communication to the whole community so we were not resorting to rumours and to Twitter,” she said.

She was also disappointed the university didn’t cancel classes campus-wide on the evening following the stabbing.

“It seemed to underestimate the impact– how big this was for individuals – people who saw the stretchers, people who saw the police and who didn’t know what was going on. This was emotional for everybody,” Hardy said.

Students walk past the scene of a stabbing at the University of Waterloo, in Waterloo, Ont., Wednesday, June 28, 2023. Waterloo Regional Police said three victims were stabbed inside the university's Hagey Hall, one person was taken into custody. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nick Iwanyshyn


The university’s ‘WatSafe’ app, a campus-wide communication system, has been the subject of much criticism.

The app did not send out an alert at the time of the attack. On Monday, the school said it was taking instruction from police.

“On that day, the operational commanders were our partners in Waterloo regional police, and they had shut down the attack very quickly and made an arrest, and so they determined that we were not to have an instruction to send that alert."

The university initially said it was police’s decision not to send out an alert. On Tuesday, a spokesperson clarified the university did have final say over whether to use the alert system.

“UWaterloo communication teams did use WatSAFE as part of a multi-channel communication activation once we had formal information from operational commanders,” the university said, in part, in an emailed statement Tuesday. “We recognize that the way we used WatSAFE on that day didn’t match the expectations that our community has for it. We acknowledge that we should have used the WatSAFE app more quickly. We are reviewing our emergency notifications and communications processes to assess how we can use multiple channels of communication more effectively during an emergency.”

A spokesperson for Waterloo regional police said its officers did not provide advice on the use the alert.


Staff and students also said the sense of community and security on campus needs improvement.

“[There’s been] nothing but gentle PR statements saying ‘we hear you,’ but refusing to do anything, refusing to listen to the complaints that every queer person has been complaining about regarding safety for years,” student Kiran Maldonado said.

Another student, Kashifa Ahmad, had similar complaints.

“It’s a grounds for continuous hate towards communities like ours, and through that, we’re not seeing an active addressing that this is wrong, that we need to shut this down,” Ahmad said.

Hardy said culture change at the school was another topic of conversion at the seminar with staff.

In particular, Hardy said some have suggested changing curriculums so programs aren’t so siloed and students get exposure to different ways of thinking.

“Just to try to ensure that we are creating people who understand the world as well as just their discipline,” she said.

The university said it will continue making adjustments to campus to make it feel safer for staff, professors and students. It said seminars like Monday’s are just another way for people to shed light on any issues they think need more work.


This story has been amended to include clarification from the university on the use of the WatSAFE app alert. Top Stories

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