U of T has increased security on all three campuses following online threats made against feminists at the university, according to an email from U of T provost Cheryl Regehr last Thursday.
Posted by an anonymous individual under the name “Kill Feminists”, the comments encouraged the violent killings of feminists at the university, calling for the murders to take place in a sociology or women and gender studies classroom at the university.
In a statement released on Friday, blogTO confirmed two of the threats originated from comments on a blog post published on their website, blogto.com. The threats have since been removed from the site.
“I can confirm that two such comments were made on this site and that we have provided information to local law enforcement regarding the matter,” said Tim Shore, blogTO founder and publisher.
According to Shore and Toronto Police Services, the comments were originally published on September 5, although it is currently unclear when the university or police were made aware of the threats. It is also unclear how long the comments remained visible online.
Unconfirmed reports also mentioned that similar comments were posted on Reddit, though statements from UTM Campus Police and Peel Regional Police only identified blogTO as the source of the threatening comments.
On Thursday, U of T VP and provost Cheryl Regehr released a statement alerting the U of T community of the situation.
“The university is currently working with Toronto Police Services and Peel Regional Police Services to support an investigation into anonymous threats made on a public blog against the University of Toronto,” said Regehr. “We have increased campus police presence on our three campuses, and we are monitoring the situation closely.”
It is not known how many officers have been assigned for extra security on the three campuses, or when security will return to its normal operations.
In an email to The Medium, Peel Regional Police inspector Steve Mendyk confirmed the comments were originally reported to UTM Campus Police by an unidentified UTM student and that Peel Regional Police would be on campus on Friday.
“In light of the release of the information about the threats, Peel Regional Police 11th Division have decided to provide an increased police presence at the school today to assist students and faculty in feeling safe as they go about their day,” said Mendyk. He also told The Medium that police have determined the threats were likely targeted at the U of T St. George campus, and the investigation will now be conducted by Toronto Police Services.
It is currently unclear what led police to believe the threats were intended for St. George.
According to Shore, blogTO collects the online IP addresses of commenters, although it is unclear if blogTO was able to attain the IP address for the source behind the threats.
“We have provided all information available to local law enforcement to assist them with their investigation into this matter,” said Shore in his statement. “Commenters are also asked to provide a name and email address, although this information is unverified.”
According to U of T spokesperson Althea Blackburn-Evans, the comments pose a low risk to the university.
“The university has also consulted experts in risk assessment, who have advised that the online threats indicate a low risk of violence,” said Blackburn-Evans in an email sent to The Medium on Friday. “That assessment is consistent with the advice from Toronto and Peel police services.”
Also on Friday, U of T president Meric Gertler released a statement to address the threats made against the university.
“Many of you are disturbed, as I am, at news of anonymous online threats targeting women at our university,” said Gertler. “I am immensely proud of the contributions members of the U of T community have made to the women’s movement and to feminism.”
As of press time, no suspects have been named and it is unclear if Toronto Police have any leads as to the identity of the individual who published the threats.