It’s been an interesting spring. On May 19, BC adopted legislation requiring post-secondary institutions to have sexual assault policies. The media is asking questions of Vancouver universities to find out what they are doing to challenge sexualized violence on campus. Earlier this week, the Vancouver Sun published an article about how SFU “fumbled” sexual assault reports. Yesterday, UBC’s new president responded to the question: How do you think universities should handle the problem of sexual assaults on university campuses?
“This issue is not specific to any university and all university presidents have been wrestling with it for years. No university has it right, yet it is very, very complicated. You have to be very fair and look after the interests of the alleged perpetrator as well as the victim. What I can do, proactively, is to use the world experts that I know to tell us how to structure investigations in a very fair way and who to involve and to educate the entire university community so that these sorts of things are hopefully prevented.” – UBC President Santa Ono
Today, we’re responding to his response.
“This issue is not specific to any university and all university presidents have been wrestling with it for years.”
Survivors have been wrestling with the impacts of violence on campus for years. The fact that most schools are responding only after pressure from government, speaks to just how little regard they have for the voices of women and their allies who have been continuously insisting on accountability for years.
“No university has it right, yet it is very, very complicated.”
All post-secondary institutions are responsible for supporting survivors and preventing sexual assault on campus. This is not impossible or particularly complicated. Back in 2013 WAVAW worked with Vancouver Community College (VCC) to develop a plan to address sexualized violence on campus.
“You have to be very fair and look after the interests of the alleged perpetrator as well as the victim.”
We feel like US Vice President Joe Biden (or his feminist speech writers) said it best: “We have to ensure that survivors’ right to justice is always paramount above everything else, including — including — the perpetrator or the school’s reputation.” If you value women and believe women, then stand with those of us in the community who are already working daily to shift our society and hold perpetrators accountable.
“What I can do, proactively, is to use the world experts that I know to tell us how to structure investigations in a very fair way and who to involve and to educate the entire university community so that these sorts of things are hopefully prevented.”
Dr. Ono, you have world experts in your backyard. We’ve been at it for over 30 years. You are responsible for preventing sexualized violence on campus and supporting survivors. This violence is not inevitable and you need look no further than down Broadway to see what we’ve done alongside VCC.
Sexual assault on campus is getting more attention. Our Premier urged women and girls to speak out about their experiences. But the truth is, they ARE speaking up, they ARE coming forward. When the institutions they trust with their stories do nothing, that’s when women are being failed. As a community that is coming together more and more in support of survivors, we will not tolerate it when our places of learning stand idly by in the face of egregious acts of violence and complacency.