Higher education needed following sexual assault allegations at Western University: professor

CALGARY – According to a Stats Canada survey, 71 per cent of students at Canadian post-secondary schools witnessed or experienced unwanted sexualized behaviours in 2019.

And following several allegations of gender-based violence at Western University, many are calling on higher education to do better.

“It tells me there is a dire need for instructional deep thinking about the culture they create,” said Michael Kehler, a professor in Masculinities Studies in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary.

At the tail end of orientation week at Western University, Tik Tok blew up with upwards of 30 allegations coming from students at one residence about being roofied and sexually assaulted.

While students were vocal, the school’s administration was silent for days, before tweeting out a response from the University’s President, Alan Shephard.

“I know many of you will have heard social media reports of events that took place this past weekend. These are very disturbing reports and Western is working around the clock to gather the facts and act upon them.

“Let me be very clear: Sexual violence will never be tolerated on our campus.

“Given the seriousness of the allegations on social media, London Police Service (LPS) has opened an investigation and Western will work closely with them. This joint activity will begin immediately.

“At this time, Western and LPS have received very little information related to the social media reports, and we’re asking anyone with more details to please come forward.”

It’s a response Kehler says didn’t come quick enough.

“If something happened on campus like a gas leak, email to all, to be safe and aware of this,” said Kehler. “No acknowledgement – almost purposeful way of silencing this – until the university could manage it.”

WATCH: Western students plan protest after sexual assault allegations surface

Kehler says the culture on campus hasn’t changed much since a few years back when banners degrading women were put up by students around town.

“At the University of Calgary, we have a sexual violence advocate, one person to respond directly to cases of non-academic incidents.”

Mount Royal University also has a designated advocate to deal help with safety planning, advocacy and reporting options.

In a statement, Mount Royal University says:

“Specialized, trauma-informed support is available for anyone who has been impacted by dating, domestic and sexual violence. Workshops and training around consent, bystander interventions, trauma, sexual violence, dating/domestic violence and healthy relationships are available to students, staff and faculty.”

The 2019 StatsCan survey also showed eight per cent of women and 6 per cent of men who experienced sexual violence spoke with someone from the school about it.

And when it came to reporting unwanted actions of others, 48 per cent of women said they did not feel safe or comfortable to do so.

In an update on Tuesday, London Police said they have not received any reports of drugging or sexual assault at the Western residence but have opened an investigation.

However, police did investigate four other complaints of sexual assault on campus.

Meanwhile, Western University has come out with several resources available for those who may be affected.

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