On July 7th, Ryan Miller, a first-year nanotech engineering student, was attacked by his roommate at Claudette Millar Hall. The attacker, another UW engineering student, is currently on bail and is living outside the Waterloo community. He was charged with aggravated assault and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, with his first trial date set in August.
The two students were randomly selected to be roommates and first met in May this year. Miller described their relationship as quiet, with both having different schedules and mostly keeping to themselves.
That Wednesday evening, Miller was playing video games in his room when his roommate stabbed him in the neck with a pair of scissors. He recalled being shocked and surprised by the attack but stated that his previous First Aid training and experience in Scouts helped him. “I knew how to deal with these situations where there’s an emergency,” Miller said.
After being stabbed, Miller rushed to the common area to find his floormates and asked them to call 911, while his roommate fled the scene. When paramedics and police arrived, Miller was able to walk himself to an ambulance.
Miller was released from Grand River Hospital a few hours after being admitted. “I got really lucky, [the weapon] didn’t hit anything important. The worst that happened was getting air in my throat, which made it hard to swallow, talk or eat for the first two days,” he said.
Miller’s friend, first-year engineering student Nathan Frey, spoke to Miller while he was at Grand River Hospital. “It was very relieving to know he was mostly fine, “ he said.
Frey coordinated with his mother to send information to Miller’s parents, who had not been contacted about the incident at this point. Miller’s father flew out from Alberta the next day to see him.
According to Miller, there wasn’t any specific motivation that provoked the assault. He noted that a few days before the attack, his roommate had been acting differently, saying, “I could kind of tell something was wrong and some of his friends noticed he wasn’t attending classes, handing in labs (assignments), or hanging out with them that week.”
Miller believes what happened was a result of a mental health breakdown and thinks the incident could have been prevented. “Seeing something was wrong, I could’ve reached out to my don about it, some of his friends or classmates could’ve reached out to him or to counseling services about it,” he said.
Alex, a first-year engineering student living on the floor of the incident, was coming home to CMH when he first saw police cars and paramedics surrounding the entrance of his residence. He later discovered that two of his floormates were involved in the incident. “The floor was talking about it, right after it happened. Some people were uncomfortable staying in their rooms for the night and spent it with their friends in other residences,” he said.
Farzan, another first-year engineering student who lived on Miller’s floor, saw multiple police officers on his floor that evening and was instructed by the police to remain in his room for a few hours while they were investigating the scene. He also learned about the details of the stabbing through his floormates. “[Miller and his roommate] lived three doors down from me. I didn’t know them well but I did not expect anything like this,” he said.
The following morning, Special Constable Services located the alleged attacker in the common area of his floor at CMH. The suspect was arrested by Waterloo police and upon investigation, was charged with aggravated assault and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose. His academic consequences with the university will be determined based on a case judgment following Policy 76 for Student Discipline.
Reflecting on his roommate, Miller said, “I don’t feel any worse about him, I’m not angry at him.” He added, “I don’t think the answer to this is jail time.”
Alex was also acquainted with Miller’s roommate. “It’s a sad situation because I don’t think there were any bad intentions,” he said.
Frey remained surprised the incident happened, “It’s still surreal, I can’t believe [Miller] got stabbed. Especially [Miller] of all people. He’s super friendly, everybody likes him and nobody has a problem with him.” He stated that it was unusual for something like this to happen in UW residences, especially at CMH.
Following the incident, Campus Housing organized a meeting with all students from the floor the incident happened on, their Residence Don and other Residence Life staff. During the meeting, they checked in to see how students were feeling, offered dedicated counseling resources within residences, and individually contacted students who were most impacted.
Nick Manning, the Associate Vice-President of Communications, was involved in coordinating and sharing updates between key groups to address the stabbing. Manning worked with Chris Read, Associate Provost for Students, the Waterloo Regional Police Communications, UWaterloo Special Constable Services, and Campus Housing to determine what information about the stabbing would be shared with the UW student community.
Information was kept close to communities that had been most affected by the incident. Multiple sources influenced their decision, including student reactions expressed on the UWaterloo Subreddit and in social media posts, and information shared with Campus Housing staff.
“Our don was really friendly about it, she let us know that she was there for us if we ever needed to talk,” Alex shared.
“Residence Life offered us support and counseling services. But what we would’ve liked to hear as well was that the person was arrested and that he won’t be allowed in residence anymore,” Farzan reflected.
Farzan’s sentiment is reflected in an article from The Waterloo Record, which reported that updates about the incident didn’t reach many UW students. The Record interviewed approximately a dozen students the night of the incident, some of whom felt unsafe on campus and emphasized their desire to be kept updated.
When Manning was asked about the decision to limit communications with the larger student body, he responded, “The risk of creating fear is much greater than the need to inform everybody. This is an isolated incident…there was no additional systemic risk to other students’ safety, so we decided we shouldn’t worry people.”
According to Alex, by a few days after the incident, things had mostly returned to normal. “People on the floor came outside their rooms, sitting around or studying in the Common Areas,” he said. “The day of and the day after, people seemed a bit uneasy and uncomfortable. But now it’s back to the same as before.”
Miller heard about students feeling unsafe on campus because of this incident and shared that these types of situations don’t often happen and that his experience is rare. He has also returned to his academic and work commitments.