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How Western University is making an attempt to handle sexual violence, change tradition on campus


Western University plans to completely re-evaluate its orientation week and shore up campus security following two evaluations into the varsity’s tradition that discovered proof of at the least one sexual assault throughout final 12 months’s frosh festivities.

The stories, publicly launched Thursday, have been carried out within the wake of allegations of gender-based and sexual violence that surfaced on social media throughout Western’s orientation week final September.

The paperwork contained a number of suggestions for the London, Ont.-based college and advised a “complex process” wanted to start to shift Western’s tradition away from being a “party school.”

The college stated Thursday that addressing the problems raised by the 2 evaluations was a precedence.

“This is a large societal issue,” Western University president Alan Shepard stated in an interview.

“It’s something that unfortunately happens everywhere and Western wants to do its part to prevent it whenever (we) can. And we think that it’s an important part of the university education in the 21st century.”

In addition to assessing its orientation week, the college can be appointing a particular adviser to handle tradition and security and requiring all new college students to finish coaching on gender-based and sexual violence prevention and consciousness earlier than arriving on campus.

Additionally, it’s partnering with an area hospital to supply 24-7 assist to college students who’ve skilled gender-based and sexual violence.

London police: No replace on investigation into previous alleged sexual assaults at Western U

The college stated it’s additionally constructing on initiatives already underway, resembling additional campus security measures, together with hiring six further particular constables and 15 new safety guards, conducting extra safety patrols and upgrading safety tools.

Allegations of mass drugging and sexual assaults at Western’s Medway-Sydenham Hall residence surfaced on social media final September. Days later, tons of of scholars walked out of lessons to demand a change in what they described as a poisonous campus tradition on the college.

Police later stated that they had obtained no formal complaints of sexual violence on the residence, however that their investigation into the allegations stays open.

western university
Students stroll throughout campus at Western University in London, Ont., Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Robins

One of the evaluations discovered “there was at least one instance of sexual assault at Medway-Sydenham Hall,” through the Sept. 10 to 12 weekend and that “some women felt that they had been drugged and did not know how.”

It additionally discovered that campus safety, Western employees, pupil leaders and medical assist groups “acted in accordance with existing Western policies,” and whereas there have been communication and staffing gaps, “most actors responded as well as they could in a very chaotic situation.”

In a press release Thursday, London police stated there was no replace on their investigation however famous that it remained open if any sufferer or survivor wished to make a report with the pressure.

The unbiased evaluation was carried out by lawyer Nathalie Des Rosiers, principal of the University of Toronto’s Massey College, and Sonya Nigam, government coordinator for the Canadian Association for the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment in Higher Education. They interviewed Western pupil leaders, college, employees and college directors, in addition to London emergency response personnel.

The different evaluation was carried out by the college’s inside motion committee on gender-based and sexual violence. The committee consulted roughly 900 campus members and 60 members of the London Coordinating Committee to End Woman Abuse.

It discovered {that a} “key concern” from the September 2021 occasions was that pupil leaders “were not well-prepared to respond when events escalated,” which was partly attributable to COVID-19 protocols and fragmented communication. It additionally discovered that some pupil leaders, who have been typically not a lot older than the first-year college students they have been supervising, have been “ill-suited and/or ill-prepared for the kind of responsibility involved.”

“We want to preserve what’s really great about Western”

The evaluations included a number of suggestions, resembling making certain providers to cope with gender-based and sexual violence have been well-known to the whole campus group and simply accessible, whereas additionally de-stigmatized.

The evaluations additionally really useful curbing the tradition of overconsumption — induced, manipulated or voluntary — of alcohol and medicines and making a reporting dashboard for gender-based and sexual violence with indicators to display progress in stopping and bettering responses to it.

Western University stated its “survivor-focused approach” to the problem offers choices to survivors together with disclosure, submitting a report or criticism and/or requesting assist.

Students stroll out of their lessons at Western University on Sept. 17, 2021. 680 NEWS/Mark Douglas

“Deciding whether to file a formal report/complaint is the right of the survivor. Accessing support and resources does not require the filing of a formal report/complaint,” it stated in a press release.

When requested what the college will do to shift its “party school” status, Shepard replied that “it’s a complex question and topic.”

“We want to preserve what’s really great about Western, which is a very highly social place, and we should remember that … not everything you learn at university is in a classroom, you learn from your peers, from social events, from clubs, extracurricular activities, and so forth,” he stated.

“So we want the fun, we want to make sure that the fun is safe. So that’s why we’re introducing all the measures that you see in the response.”

He acknowledged that altering Western’s tradition to create a protected and welcoming area for all will take time, including that he’s “grateful” for the stories and the suggestions that got here from them.

“Culture change is always complex and it takes longer than anyone hopes for,” Shepard stated.

“I think some of the immediate measures we’ve taken now will go some distance towards affecting the culture, but it’s a long-term project and it requires really everyone to participate. And that’s important and a good thing.”



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