An Australian student is facing almost $200,000 (£109,000) in legal fees after being sued by a university employee amid allegations he made comments on social media said to be “racist.”
According to local news site Brisbane Times, in 2013, an administration officer asked Alex Wood to leave a Queensland University of Technology (QUT) computer lab which was set aside for the use of Indigenous students only.
The site reports how a frustrated Mr Wood then took to Facebook and allegedly wrote: “Just got kicked out of the unsigned Indigenous computer room. QUT is stopping segregation with segregation.”
Two other students are being sued alongside Mr Wood; one for supporting his comments, and the other for making offensive ones of his own. However, the latter has denied doing so and has, reportedly, produced a “volume of evidence” against the claim.
The administration officer in question, Cindy Priory – described as “an Indigenous woman” – is said to have taken issue with the comments after which she was forced to take sick leave. Local media reports she has been unable to leave home for fear she would be faced with offensive comments.
Ms Prior has also reportedly described how she has not been able to return to work in her role which required her to work alongside white people.
The three students – along with the institution and two other members of staff – are being sued under the country’s Racial Discrimination Act, and Ms Prior is reportedly seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.
According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, under the Act, examples of racial hatred can include “racially offensive material on the internet, including eforums, blogs, social networking sites, and video sharing sites.”
A legal source reportedly told the Australian Associated Press (AAP) that the costs are already in the “tens of thousands of dollars” for Mr Wood and that, should the case go to trial, costs could rise to around $200,000, or $500,000 (£271,510) for all three students.