This editorial discusses sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers.
When it comes to combatting sexual violence and harassment on campus, Queen’s is lagging.
In a province-wide survey, 71.4 per cent of participating Queen’s students disclosed sexual harassment during their time at the university—the second highest percentage of any post-secondary institution in the province.
The long-awaited release of the Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey—announced in winter of 2018 but delivering its results just last week—has reinforced the institutional culture of sexual harassment and assault at Queen’s.
Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Ann Tierney called the report “concerning.” But this is a vast understatement. Out of 580,472 survey participants reportedly having no knowledge of sexual violence supports, services, or reporting procedures at their university, 20,217 were from Queen’s.
Tierney’s worries are encouraging. However, the unsafe atmosphere on campus has shifted from concerning to dire. This is an epidemic, and it’s one that requires immediate attention.
With harassment rates so high, the University’s lack of knowledge is more than an oversight—it’s a threat to student safety.
Calling the results of the survey sobering is insufficient. Our university has the fourth-highest provincial rate for sexual violence, and the second-highest for sexual harassment. Falling below the highest rate doesn’t justify inaction toward our campus culture.
While the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has pledged to double its $3 million investment in the Women’s Campus Safety Grant, that money breaks down to just over $100,000 spread over 45 Ontario post-secondary institutions. That’s compared to over $50 million donated from the government and philanthropists for Mitchell Hall’s recent revitalization.
The Ministry had promised to release their survey results by fall of 2018—but only published data last week. This lack of transparency proves sexual violence receives insufficient treatment in Ontario.
Both the provincial government and the University need to put their money where their mouths are. Thousands of students are subjected to violence on campus and left unaware of the resources available to them.
Expedited action is long overdue.
Within the University, the sexual violence prevention and response office should be expanded and made more accessible. One coordinator in a Mac-Corry office pales in comparison to other schools in the province. U of T’s prevention and support service, for instance, has a detailed website explaining how to report sexual violence and hosts multiple response centres directly on campus.
We can’t keep students safe if we don’t give them a chance to get the help they deserve. Queen’s is responsible for the welfare of its students—it’s time to take that seriously.
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