Sexual assault prevention and response at U of S

The events outlined in the Nov. 20 and 21 articles in the Toronto Star saddened me. It saddens me to see the state of affairs at campuses across Canada and it especially saddens me to see how our own university handled the event depicted in these articles.

The safety of students, staff, faculty and visitors is our highest priority at the U of S. In January 2012, a sexual assault was reported on our campus, and in the immediate aftermath, we did not do enough to care for those involved. It was six weeks before the university communicated about this incident—far beyond what is reasonable and what our own practices at the time suggested. Our then president apologized on behalf of the university to those involved and put in place communications protocols and prevention programs to ensure this kind of response never happens again. I want to once again apologize to the individuals directly affected.

The police are responsible for investigating crime, but we also have a higher duty of care to those affected by an incident on our campus. It is clear that the University of Saskatchewan, along with many other post-secondary institutions across our country, have work to do. Our senior leaders are committed to changing this and following the lead of nine Canadian universities that have already developed and implemented sexual assault policies.

In recent years, the U of S has focused on enhancing efforts around the prevention of sexual assault alongside heightened effort to streamline reporting processes and campus alert. We have a non-academic misconduct policy in place that states that we have no tolerance of violence of any kind, including sexual assault, on our campus. Our next step will be to examine what other Canadian universities are doing specifically related to policy on sexual assault and determine whether there are additions or changes that could be made in our misconduct policy. We will do this work in consultation with students and other groups.

Our goal is to continue to look for ways to improve how we deal with sexual assault when it happens on our campus and how we take steps to prevent this from happening.

The safety of all members of our university community is of utmost importance and our actions, not words, will prove that this is the case at the University of Saskatchewan.

Patti McDougall

Vice-Provost, Teaching and Learning

University of Saskatchewan

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