A Carleton University student has been fined for creating a number of hateful internet memes targeting fellow student Arun Smith.
As Xtra reported in May, Ottawa police launched an investigation after dozens of homophobic image macros were posted on the website QuickMeme. Derogatory text was superimposed over images of Smith, and some messages alluded to sexual assault.
Raphael Deketele has confirmed to Xtra that he created some of the memes. This was first revealed during an investigation headed by Ryan Flannagan, director of student affairs. Student Affairs deemed that Deketele committed acts of harassment as defined under the Carleton University Student Rights and Responsibilities Code.
Deketele says that while he regrets his actions, the memes he created did not explicitly threaten Smith.
“Although some of the things I said were obscene, all I did was insult him. I didn’t say that I would do anything bad to him or that anything bad was going to happen to him,” he says.
Deketele was forced to submit a written apology and was given the option of writing an essay about hate crimes and the queer community or paying a fine. He opted to pay the fine.
“I made nasty jokes about him. I agree that they were nasty, and I wish I hadn’t said them,” he says. “I don’t think that I should have been punished with sanctions by the university just for being insulting.”
Smith received the written apology on Aug 28. It reads: “Dear Mr. Smith, I would like to apologize for the seven ‘memes’ featuring your image that I posted online, especially the ones that alluded to your homosexuality. While my intent was simply to make some light-hearted jokes at your expense, and not to threaten or abuse you, it was nonetheless wrong of me to write about you in such a way on a public forum. I assure you that I will not do anything like this again, and I hope that you will forgive my indiscretion.”
Smith, who is the coordinator of Carleton's Challenge Homophobia and Transphobia Campaign, thinks the apology lacks sincerity and says Deketele has failed to recognize the severity of his actions.
“I certainly appreciate the apology, though I think it falls flat in terms of making amends,” he says.
Deketele, who made the university’s honour list for the 2008/09 and 2009/10 academic years, says the memes were never meant to go viral. Despite what he wrote in the apology, he blames Smith for publicizing the incident.
“If he doesn’t like you he will try to assassinate your character. I was worried that if I came forward he would do that, and it happened anyway. Just my luck that it only happened to me; I’m the only person who had someone rat on them. I feel bad about what I did, I really do,” Deketele says.
Prompted by Deketele’s apparent lack of remorse, Smith says he will provide Deketele’s name to police and seek legal counsel.
Flannagan says it is not the university’s place to involve authorities in such matters.
“As it relates to criminal matters, that is a decision for the Ottawa police,” Flannagan says. “If people want to go to the police or go to the courts, by all means; the university doesn’t have an opinion on that.”
Dekelete says he will not reveal the names of the other students who were involved.
Meanwhile, Smith has filed a freedom-of-information request with the university and says he will forward police any relevant information.
While Smith feels Carleton handled the situation appropriately, he also thinks justice has not been served.“So long as Raphael continues to be a student, there’s still a fundamental question of my safety, whether we’re talking about my emotional safety or my physical safety,” he says. “There has to be some actual justice, and right now there is no justice.”