Western University is introducing new measures to address and prevent gender-based and sexual violence (GBSV) as part of an effort to address concerns about campus culture and safety.
Measures include appointing a special advisor to address campus culture and implementing mandatory GBV prevention and awareness training for all new students that must be completed before they arrive at school. in September.
The university will also immediately re-evaluate its orientation activities (Week O) which, last September, prompted thousands of students to leave after the discovery of allegations of sexual assault and substance abuse.
“We listened to our campus community and expert partners,” said university president Alan Shepard.
“With them, we want to be leaders in the work to stop gender-based violence from happening on college campuses and throughout society.”
The actions follow recommendations from an independent review commissioned by Shepard that looked into September sexual abuse allegations that were posted on social media, as well as a report by the university’s internal action committee into the GBSV, which was formed in response to the allegations and the walkout. .
These measures are building blocks for the changes in campus culture that new University Student Council (USC) President Ethan Gardner wants to see when he begins his term in the fall.
“I’m thrilled to see Western taking steps to address these educational changes,” he said. “They touched on a lot of really important topics and the main point is implementation, so what we’re looking forward to seeing is how they will implement these changes.”
Committees formed to promote accountability
The reassessment of O-week activities is intended to foster accountability, the university said. All O-week student leaders will be required to participate in an intensive two-week training program, which emphasizes safety and discourages the overuse of alcohol and other recreational drugs.
“It’s something that USC has been pushing for a while now, with the increased and updated training, and the issues around these training modules are a great start to educating the student body,” Gardner said.
Shepard acknowledged how difficult the past school year has been for the Western community, including the death of freshman Gabriel Neil, who was killed after an assault near campus in September.
“The impact of last September rightly caused us to turn inward as an institution. We are re-examining our culture, values, policies and approach to orienting students to campus life” , Shepard said.
“And we are redoubling our efforts as a community to use this moment to generate real and lasting change.”
A new GBSV committee will be formed, comprised of students, staff, and faculty representatives with input from various community partners as needed. It will be centered on survivors of assault and will focus on training initiatives aimed at prevention, safety and culture change.
Gardner said he was pleased to see Western adopting some of the many recommendations made by USC, which included consent modules, community resources for students and additional staff for security.
The university said it would support independent student organizations such as fraternities and sororities in their efforts to address the GBSV issue.
“It’s important for students to lead these conversations, and I hope I can help them do that,” Gardner said.
Western has come under criticism for the fraternal culture on its campus and the role it plays in sexual violence, but the university has said it is not affiliated with any of these groups. Last week, Ontario PC candidate Stephen Lecce apologized for participating in a “slave auction” organized by the fraternity while at Western.
Shepard said he was grateful to members of the London community who stepped up to offer their perspective and expertise and guided Western through this process of change.
“Culture change will take time, persistence, and the active engagement of everyone on campus. Together, we remain committed to actively working to end gender-based and sexual violence on campus and in our community.”