University of Ottawa appoints task force after 'appalling' sexual allegations
Andrea Janus, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, March 6, 2014 9:49AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 11:17AM EST
The University of Ottawa will create a task force “on respect and equality” on campus, the president announced Thursday, in response to two recent allegations of sexual misconduct involving students.
University of Ottawa President Allan Rock said the school must evaluate “how well we send the message that all forms of sexualized violence are unacceptable and profoundly repugnant to our core values.”
The task force will be made up of faculty, staff and students. Its mandate will be to investigate ways in which the school can “reaffirm that culture of respectful behaviour on campus so that everyone, women in particular, can learn and work in an environment where they feel protected from harassment and sexualized violence,” Rock said.
To fulfill that mandate, Rock said, the task force will:
- review the school’s awareness campaigns that denounce sexual violence
- examine best practices at other schools
- evaluate the effectiveness of the school’s complaint system
The move comes after four student leaders resigned on the weekend after student union leader Anne-Marie Roy went public with their sexually explicit private Facebook conversation about her.
Roy had received screenshots of the Facebook chat in an anonymous email sent on Feb. 10, and decided to make them public to bring attention to what she considered an example of “rape culture.”
In the conversation, the students discuss what sexual acts they would like to engage in with Roy, and suggest she has sexually transmitted diseases. “Someone punish her with their shaft,” one of the students wrote.
After initially threatening legal action against Roy for making the emails and their identities public, the students backed down and apologized.
On Monday, the school suspended the men’s hockey team as police investigate allegations several players were involved in a sexual assault in Thunder Bay, Ont. over the weekend of Feb. 1. Thunder Bay police have not made details of the alleged assault public.
The alleged assault is believed to have happened while the team was in Thunder Bay to play two games against Lakehead University.
The University of Ottawa suspended the team after being contacted by a third party on Feb. 24. The school called police the following day.
The school also announced at the time that it was launching an internal review to examine the allegations, as well to look into why the school only heard about the alleged incident weeks after the trip to Thunder Bay.
Rock said Thursday what is so “appalling” about the allegations “is that they stand in such shocking contrast to the (school’s) values that I’ve known and internalized for over 50 years.”
Rock said the campus is a safe place for students, faculty and staff, and said the school has policies and practices designed to protect everyone from harassment. He said the school must examine how it can better communicate these policies to new students and staff, how to better support victims, and how to establish a school community that “rejects violence.”
“The questions we now must ask involve how those policies, how those practices can be improved, can be strengthened,” Rock said.
“In evaluating our campus environment, we have to ask how well we send the message that all forms of sexualized violence are unacceptable and profoundly repugnant to our core values and beliefs as a university community.”
With files from The Canadian Press