OTTAWA — Carleton frosh leaders have apologized after photos surfaced across social media on Sept. 7 showing students wearing shirts that said “FUCK SAFE SPACE.”
“While our intentions were not to harm or disrespect anyone, the T-shirts in question were without a doubt inappropriate, inconsiderate, offensive and disgraceful,” a statement posted to the university’s website said.
Some frosh facilitators have said the shirts were meant to protest the university’s policy during orientation week that prohibits student leaders from swearing. The statement, however, calls the shirts’ message “misguided.”
“Intent is not an excuse for impact and we take full responsibility for the seriousness of our actions,” the statement said. “In this moment we are reminded of our influence on not just current and incoming Carleton University students but also our community. It pains us to know that we have tarnished the name of our institution and the hard work of thousands of students, staff and faculty in creating a safe and inclusive environment.”
The apology was addressed to Carleton students, staff, faculty and alumni, as well as Leslie Robertson, who initially tweeted photos of frosh leaders wearing the shirts near the university and in the greater Ottawa community.
Those involved say they will make amends for their actions by participating in community service throughout the year.
The back of the offending shirt said “or me.” Many had accused frosh leaders of promoting rape culture by wearing clothing that denounces “safe space.” Carleton has a safe-space program, which it defines as a “university-wide initiative to reduce the impact of homophobia and heterosexism on campus.”
Some Carleton students countered the shirts messaging during a rally on campus Sept. 8, calling on fellow students to “embrace safe space.”
University president Roseann Runte also issued a statement later in the day following Carleton’s investigation saying the university would issue sanctions after further meetings with those students involved.
“The inappropriate action did not undermine the overall effectiveness of Carleton’s Orientation programming,” Runte stated.
She said the event took place after the conclusion of orientation week and was not sanctioned by the university.
“Such behaviour is not acceptable and extremely disappointing to the broader Carleton community,” Runte said.
Carleton’s Graduate Students’ Association has condemned the shirts.
“‘Safe space’ initiatives are intended to create environments free from harassment, discrimination and violence,” it said in a statement. “In particular, these initiatives aim to ensure everyone can participate in campus life regardless of their race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, political affiliation or belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, marital status, family status and disability.”
The Carleton University Students’ Association initially said it would abide by the university’s safe space policy.
“We would like to make it unequivocally clear that this is an unacceptable message for Carleton students to promote whether on or off-campus as it does not accurately reflect the atmosphere within the Carleton University community,” it later said.