End Rape Culture in the John Abbott Islanders

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I had a call with the head of SART, Antoine Beauchemin, earlier today. We felt that we weren’t quite on the same page, so we had a productive discussion on the issue of how the College deals with sexual assault, especially in the context of its athletics program. He expressed gratitude that the petition had reached over 2600 signatures and hopes that this will push other parts of the administration to move faster.

We opened up by talking about transparency. So far, the only communication that the administration has had with students was the mass MIO and an update on the College’s website. I told Antoine that the College should really make use of its social media accounts to keep the entire community up to date on the situation so that it wouldn’t seem like they were trying to sweep the whole thing under the rug. He agreed that the optics of it weren’t great but that it wasn’t the College’s intention to come off this way and that he would ask the people responsible for posting on social media (it is a specific department and I knew going into this that he and SART couldn’t do this on their own) to keep the community updated on what the College is doing regarding the current situation. While regular social media posts on the topic won’t stop sexual assault on campus, I believe that it will increase student trust in the administration’s ability to protect them and make JAC a safer place for everyone.

We then discussed the first point of the petition, which is to say enforcing a zero-tolerance policy towards locker-room talk and rape jokes. He told me that the Manager of Sports and Recreation, Patrice Lemieux, was actively trying to get formal training for the coaches on how to deal with rape culture and cultures of silence in their teams, which I was incredibly pleased to hear. He then told me that the coaches themselves were discussing how what had previously been chalked up to "boys will be boys" could no longer be tolerated and that they had to pull their standards into the 21st century. It is very encouraging to hear that the people in charge of the athletics program are trying to change things for the better, but we all have to wait and see how this effort pays off next year.

We then addressed point two; athletes not taking SART training seriously. He agreed with me that athletes often crack jokes during the training and can leave the sessions early, but that that would no longer be the case with online training (which ALL students will have to take). The video is now ready and about to be distributed, all that is left is for other elements of the administration to approve its implementation. He estimates that it will take until the end of the fall semester for this process to finish, which I unfortunately agree with. The administration is extremely convoluted and dozens of committees meet once every two weeks who need to approve things before sending them on to the next committee, so it will fall onto faculty in those committees to fast-track this process. After lamenting over this, I expressed concern in how easy it may be to abuse a SART webinar. The that will be one used by Abbott is modelled off of the one Concordia has, and theirs makes sure students are paying attention by asking multiple choice questions every so often. You don’t need to be in premed to know that it would be easy to cheat that system. I proposed that there be a test at the end of the webinar made of short answer questions to make sure that students actually paid attention and understood the contents of the SART training. He agreed that this would be a good idea and I believe he said that he would look into it.

We then talked about point three; the ethics test. Antoine seemed rather skeptical about this part, however, as our discussion went on, I believe that he warmed up to the idea rather well. He agreed that the College had to do more in matters of sexual assault prevention, and that an investigation doesn’t solve everything. He asked me if I thought that all students should take this test or just the athletes, to which I responded that the College needs to put in place these kinds of preventative measures, because sadly 95% of sexual assaults go unreported in Canada. Considering the fact that athletes possess a lot of social capital on campus, it stands to reason that it would be much harder for victims to speak up against them for fear of reprisals. He then asked me if I thought that these tests should be given to all students who hold social capital on campus, ie SUJAC execs, RAs, athletes and club leaders, to which I answered that it would be good to see how these ethics test worked on athletes first as it is the athletics department that is at the centre of the controversy, but of course if it worked they should be expanded to all of these students. He said that he do some research to see if such a system had been implemented on any other campuses. This was just to make sure that JAC wouldn’t be implementing something that research showed to be negative, if those implementations had yielded positive results, or if there were no cases to look at, he would push for their implementation at Abbott. We ended off this topic by talking about how if premed students need to pass an ethics test in addition to having the grades to qualify for their program, then athletes should have to prove that they are not going to be part of the problem in an ethics test alongside physical try-outs in order to qualify for a team.

If you are a victim who wants to file a report or an athlete who has witnessed your teammates make inappropriate comments (or tell suspicious hookup stories), now is not too late to speak up and to make a statement to SART@johnabbott.qc.ca I hope to have more dialogue like this with College officials in the future and that they make it a priority to listen to the voices of students, alumni, faculty and members of the John Abbott community going forward. If you are a student who wants to get involved, go to P-101 (the SUJAC office) or H-117 (the SART office) next year and ask about the details of the SART committee. This committee is open to the public and deals with how SART is run. They are looking for more students to join, so please feel free to go down and talk to them next semester.

Gabriel Imbeau

Gabriel IMBEAU
1 year ago