Take action against sexual violence at U of T
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It is estimated that 1 in 5 women will experience sexual violence during their academic career at a post-secondary institution, with statistics being even higher for racialized women, transgender students, and students with disabilities. Yet, very few Canadian post-secondary institutions have a distinct policy that addresses sexual violence.
As one of the top-rated universities in the world, the University of Toronto should be at the forefront of the fight against sexual violence. However, U of T currently lacks a policy that comprehensively addresses sexual violence, and fails to provide adequate resources for survivors.
The University has taken a promising first step in creating an Advisory Committee to the President and Provost on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence. However, concerns around the transparency of the Committee’s selection process have led many students to doubt its potential to represent student concerns. It is vital that the administration recognizes the importance of centering diverse student voices with a new selection procedure.
We, the undersigned, demand better from an institution that has committed to protecting human rights, equity, and justice for all its members.
We call on the President, Provost, and the Advisory Committee Chairs to:
- Open a new, transparent selection process for the Advisory Committee, accepting applications from interested students with the aim of including an array of students who have background knowledge of this issue
- Engage with and draw feedback from a diversity of student voices (students from all three campuses, through student working groups, an inter-collegiate forum, etc.)
- Centralize and improve resources and support services for survivors of sexual violence on all three campuses
- Examine existing training requirements for Campus Police and other front-line staff and ensure all are well-trained in handling sexual violence cases
- Review all relevant policies and procedures and, in light of this review, develop a clear and comprehensive sexual violence policy which: recognizes the need to treat sexual violence differently from other offenses; affirms survivors’ rights to confidentiality, dignity, and sensitivity; and outlines the procedure for adjudicating claims
- Commit to working on this issue and producing solutions in a timely manner
We urge the University administration to take this seriously and to use its institutional power to work with students in combating sexual violence.
- Announcement of Advisory Committee to the President and Provost on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence: http://www.provost.utoronto.ca/public/pdadc/2014_to_2015/43.htm
- Toronto Star investigation detailing how post-secondary institutions are failing sexual assault victims: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/11/20/canadian_postsecondary_schools_failing_sex_assault_victims.html
- Recent METRAC report on campus sexual assault policies: http://www.metrac.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/final.formatted.campus.discussion.paper_.26sept14.pdf
- Ontario Women’s Directorate guide on developing adequate responses to sexual violence at universities: http://www.women.gov.on.ca/owd/docs/campus_guide.pdf
Written by the U of T Students against Sexual Violence
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