TRU is taking steps to address a deeply troubling issue on Canadian campuses — sexual assaults, sexual harassment and how institutions respond to reported incidents.
The university has announced an interim sexual assault support and response protocol as a temporary measure as it continues to develop policies, protocols and educational resources to deal with sex assaults on campus.
“TRU is committed to maintaining an environment free of discrimination and harassment, and to foster healthy attitudes and behaviours towards sexuality, sex and gender roles,” said Alan Shaver, TRU President and Vice-Chancellor in his message to the community.
A lot of post-secondary institutions are playing catch-up after the issue of sex assaults and misogynist behaviour exploded on campuses over the past few years. There has been a handful of notorious incidents, but it was also the manner in which they were dealt with that fostered controversy. In 2014, for example, the University of Ottawa suspended the whole of its men’s hockey team for three years after two players were charged with sexual assault.
Amid the cloud of controversy, it was revealed that only nine of 78 Canadian universities and colleges had policies to deal with sex assaults.
A CBC survey earlier this year found that more than 700 sex assaults were reported on Canadian campuses over the past five years. Among institutions that responded to the survey, TRU reported a single sex assault (2012), giving it a rate of 0.303 incidents per 10,000 students. That is comparable to Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal (0.333) and Lakehead University (0.282), which have enrolments of similar size. However, it is widely acknowledged that most sexual assaults go unreported.
The interim TRU measure provides proper procedures and resources to those who may be called upon to work with victims of sexual violence. It is adapted from a protocol developed by Queen’s University in Toronto and applies not only to students but to all members of the campus community, including visitors.
“We have taken our commitment to supporting those who experience sexual violence seriously, and we are working diligently on campus and with community partners on programs, policies and resources to ensure that our campus remains free from sexual violence.”
A broadly representative President’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Task Force, chaired by Dean of Students Christine Adam, will immediately focus on four priorities:
• Develop a sexual assault policy and review other policies and procedures that address sexual assault and/or sexual harassment.
• Enhance current sexual assault prevention education programming.
• Develop clear reporting and response protocols.
• Develop communication plans around these priorities.
Shaver urges all members of the university community to review the interim protocol to learn about options and resources available to those who require support and to those who wish to support others. The protocol can be found at https://acm.tru.ca/AssetFactory.aspx?did=35458.
He closed by asking the TRU community to join in to ensure that the university remains a safe and positive space where members of the University community are able to learn, work, and express themselves in an environment that reflects TRU’s core values, namely respect for all, dignity, equality, diversity and freedom.