A student at the University of Waterloo in Ontario was charged with assault Thursday, accused of stabbing a professor and two students in a gender studies class in what police described as a « hate-motivated incident. »
Jehovahnny Villalba-Aleman, 24, an international student at the university, was charged with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and damage, Waterloo Regional Police said in a declaration. He appeared in court for a bail hearing on Thursday, police said. It was not immediately clear whether he had a lawyer.
« The defendant targeted a gender studies course and investigators believe this was a hate-motivated incident related to gender identity and expression, » the statement said.
Police said about 40 students were in a classroom on Wednesday at about 3:40 pm when the suspect stabbed three people: a 38-year-old female professor; a 20-year-old student and a 19-year-old student.
All three were taken to hospital with « serious but not life-threatening » injuries, police said. Police found the suspect in the building and arrested him, they said.
In what he described As a « shocking attack, » James Rush, the university’s vice president, said in a statement Thursday that the stabbing occurred during a lecture in a class called Philosophy 202 – Gender Studies. According to the university website, the class examines “the construction of gender in the history of philosophy through contemporary discussions”. Questions the class raises include, “What is gender? How do we « do » gender? How can we « null » gender – and do we want to? »
This was stated by Yusuf Kaymak, a student of the university CTV News who was in the classroom when someone came in and asked who the professor was before pulling out a knife. “I ran out, and after we walked out, there was a kid who was stabbed,” she said. That person, Mr. Kaymak added, was bleeding from his arm.
The University of Waterloo has approximately 42,000 students and is one of the best technology schools in the world, requiring engineering and computer science students to combine studies with work. BlackBerry and other startups of yesteryear grew out of student projects at the university.
ON his Facebook page On Thursday, the university said members of its community would gather on campus « in recognition of the shocking attack and trauma we experienced yesterday. »
The Facebook page has become a platform for people to vent their anger over the attack. Some questioned why the school’s emergency alert system had failed and why students were allowed to attend classes in other parts of the campus without being notified that an attack had occurred. Others wrote about the attack in the broader context of gender-based violence, even before police identified a motive.
There have been other gender-related attacks at Canadian universities, including in 1989, when a man who blamed women for his career and financial woes fatally shot 14 female students and employees of École Polytechnique, an engineering school in Montreal.
Mr. Rush said in his statement that the campus emergency alert system, despite testing being concluded on the same day as the attack, « didn’t go off as quickly as we all would have expected. »
“I recognize that many people will speculate about the motivation for this attack; we have to be patient and have faith in the judicial process,” Rush said. « I urge you to focus your energies on supporting each other during this very traumatic time. »