I’m working on an investigation about sexual violence on Canadian university campuses right now (you’ll hear more about it soon). So far, I’ve been doing research, listening to sources carefully and asking a lot of questions. I want to make sure I understand what’s happening in this space, so my reporting can fill information gaps, and push the dialogue a little bit further.
While the #MeToo movement started in Hollywood, universities have not been immune to scrutiny: They’ve also seen allegations against professors, students and staff in recent months (read examples here, here and here), prompting responses from both provincial and federal governments.
With so much news swirling around this topic, I’d like to share six links that I’ve bookmarked and revisited over the past few weeks. I hope these stories and resources can serve as starting points for productive conversation:
On March 1, 2018, Maclean’s published an investigation into sexual violence at Canadian universities, revealing a string of failures to support survivors on several campuses. Featuring the perspectives of 41 students who identify as survivors, the report found that students were pushed to resolve their complaints informally, and sometimes experienced long wait times for support, insensitive school counsellors and an inaccessible emergency hotline. This piece reminded me not only of how pervasive sexual violence is on campus, but also how damaging slow and bureaucratic processes can be for survivors who need immediate support.
- “Canadian Universities To Face Funding Cuts If They Fail To Address Campus Sexual Assaults” (HuffPo)
February’s federal budget came with a promise to universities: up to $5.5 million over five years to create a “harmonized national framework” for addressing sexual violence on campus. But it also came with a caveat: If universities don’t successfully implement “best practices” for addressing on-campus sexual assault by 2019, the ruling Liberals could take the money away.
The Canadian Federation of Students is concerned about this, saying the government’s pledge is vague and may not contribute to safer campuses. I’m curious: How effective do you think this type of incentive will be? Does it bring up questions or concerns for you?
- “Concordia says allegations of sexual harassment ‘serious’” (The Globe and Mail)
I decided to include one university-specific article because this story has dominated headlines for weeks.
Concordia’s creative writing department became the focus of Canada’s #MeToo moment after writer Mike Spry published a blog post on Jan. 8, 2018, alleging a longstanding culture of misogyny within the department and the field of Canadian literature more generally. Concordia said it would take the allegations seriously; but Julie McIsaac, another former Concordia student, published a response that detailed her own experiences at the school and revealed that women on campus have been discussing its culture of toxic masculinity for years.
I’ve been considering the role of men, and the difference between mansplaining and allyship, in the #MeToo movement. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this: When does allyship cross over into mansplaining?
Resources and initiatives
- 650,000+ Ontario postsecondary students asked to take survey on sexual violence (Council of Ontario Universities)
As a journalist, I’m always looking out for numbers that could help quantify how widespread gender-based violence actually is. On campus, this is a really hard thing to do. That’s why I’m cautiously hopeful about this initiative by the Ontario government.
In the last week of February, Ontario’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development released a survey, asking university students across the province to share their experiences with sexual violence. The ministry says it wants to create a comprehensive picture of how often sexual violence happens on campuses and its impact on students. It also plans to report back later this year.
OurTurn is a student-led initiative to help students across Canada take action against gender-based violence on campus.
If you want to learn more about how universities approach gender-based violence, or you’re a student looking to take action on this issue at your own school, OurTurn’s document could be helpful for you. It comes with a report card on more than 60 university sexual-assault policies, as well as a blueprint for concrete actions that student organizations can pursue.
Former tenured professor and consultant Karen Kelsey launched a crowdsourced database of sexual harassment in academia that allows people to anonymously report their experiences with sexual violence at postsecondary schools. The database invites participants to share where, when and how the incident(s) happened, if and how the school responded, and how their experiences have impacted their well-being and careers. So far, the spreadsheet has more than 2,300 responses from people across North America.
That’s my roundup! What key issues, announcements or events about on-campus sexual violence did I miss? Please let me know via email, Facebook or Twitter. As I continue to research this issue, I’d appreciate your insights to help me determine what I should investigate next. Any thoughts are welcome — let’s create this project together!
P.S. March 8 was International Women’s Day! In this post, meet five resilient women — each fighting for gender equity in their own ways — who I interviewed over the past year.