Bill Flanagan, President, University of Alberta
Kate Chisholm, Chair, Board of Governors, University of Alberta
Peggy Garritty, Chancellor, University of Alberta
Steven Dew, Provost and Vice President Academic, University of Alberta
André Costopoulos, Dean of Students, University of Alberta
Katherine Huising, Associate Vice President, Campus Services, University of Alberta
Tim Mills, Vice President, Association of Academic Staff of the University of Alberta (AASUA)
As a united front, the undergraduate and graduate students of the University of Alberta demand that the leaders of our campus community take action to prevent and meaningfully respond to sexual violence, so survivors receive the justice they deserve.
Post-secondary students across Canada face endemic sexual violence. Statistics Canada estimates that among post-secondary students, one out of 10 women and one out of 25 men experience sexual assault each year.1 At UAlberta, that would equate to 2,500 undergraduates and 600 graduate students per year, even without considering staff, instructors, and other members of the campus community. The past year has seen numerous survivors come forward about being assaulted — not only by other students in social settings, but in their residences, and by instructors.
However, the pervasive harm of sexual violence often goes unnoticed. For a wide variety of systemic reasons, sexual violence is chronically underreported across post-secondary education. At UAlberta, many survivors encounter unclear complaint pathways, unjust reporting or investigation mechanisms, insufficiently trained staff and instructors, lack of clarity on their rights, failure to meet standards of procedural fairness, or harmful stereotypes. Others report being simply ignored or even silenced.
Despite the severe and obvious need, University administration and other campus leaders have often failed in their responsibility to create a safe learning environment. Students have consistently raised concerns with campus leaders, but responses are typically disorganized, reluctant, or limited to general support without action. For example, the most substantive movement on this file is the upcoming, much-delayed hire of a sexual violence prevention and response coordinator — after years of student advocacy, a protest by the University’s own staff, and a fee increase.
In addition, this intersectional problem reveals institutional failures to address complex EDI issues. Lack of meaningful action on sexual violence prevention and response seriously undermines trust in commitments to reconciliation. Further inaction will signal to marginalized students — including Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, 2SLGBTQ+, and disabled student communities — that the University is not a safe place for them. Inaction is especially painful and undermining in the context of the Canada-wide crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people, as well as high rates of sexual violence against disabled and 2SLGBTQ+ people.2
Student leaders have consistently called for the University to take meaningful action on sexual violence prevention and response. All too often, the University has dragged its feet or referred matters to working groups that make no progress. We demand that the University protect our right to a safe learning environment by:
Working with Association of Academic Staff University of Alberta (AASUA) to reform the opaque, inequitable reporting and investigation mechanisms in the collective agreement.
Working with AASUA to reform collective agreement sections that erase disciplinary records after two years. These sections obstruct establishing, recognizing, or considering long-term patterns of predatory behaviour.
Hiring and empowering the long-promised Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator.
Working to provide more comprehensive and detailed training to all residence assistants, and provide more consent and awareness training to those who live in residence.
Setting and enforcing ethical standards for relationships and sexual interactions between faculty and students, particularly their own students, respecting the impact of power differential on consent.
Developing and implement mandatory training on consent and sexual violence for instructors, students, and staff. For students, this should look like a short online course that covers consent, relationships, and sexual health, which students need to complete before they can access eClass.
Harmonizing all policies and practices surrounding sexual violence to create a single survivor-centred document that lays out clear, consistent practices for all members of the university community across all campuses. This process should be developed in collaboration with students who represent diverse perspectives, including Black, Indigenous, and 2SLGBTQ+ students.
Implementing and refining institution-wide restorative justice approaches, and providing appropriate training to staff, including staff at CSJ and Augustana.
Ensuring that all sexual violence prevention and response resources are available in French and designed specifically for CSJ students.
Making more in-person sexual violence prevention and response resources available at Augustana Campus. This is vital given the distance between Augustana and North Campus. The Augustana Students' Association has provided a supporting statement.
Advocacy on sexual violence at all levels frequently encounters some variation of ‘I’m sympathetic and deeply concerned, but there’s not much I can do.’ Deep concern, when accompanied by continued inaction, is hypocrisy. It is past time that we as a community fight rape culture and provide some measure of justice. The leaders and structures with the power to create change are accountable for that responsibility.
University of Alberta Students' Union (UASU)
University of Alberta Graduate Students' Association (UAGSA)
Alberta Pharmacy Students' Association (APSA)
Association des Résidents de la Faculté Saint-Jean (ARFSJ)
Augustana Students' Association (ASA)
Aboriginal Student Council (ASC)
Association des Universitaires de la Faculté Saint-Jean (AUFSJ)
Business Students' Association (BSA)
East Campus Students' Association (ECSA)
Education Students' Association (ESA)
Engineering Students' Society (ESS)
Faculty of ALES Undergraduate Association (FAUnA)
HUB Community Association (HCA)
Interdepartmental Science Students' Society (ISSS)
International Students' Association (ISA)
Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation Student Society (KSRSS)
Law Students' Association (LSA)
Lister Hall Students' Association (LHSA)
Medical Students' Association (MSA)
Nursing Undergraduate Association (NUA)
Organization for Arts Students and Interdisciplinary Studies (OASIS)
University of Alberta Black Students' Association (UABSA)
Non-Academic Staff Association (NASA)
1One in ten women students sexually assaulted in a postsecondary setting, Statistics Canada (2020), located at https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200914/dq200914a-eng.htm
2Gender-based violence and unwanted sexual behaviour in Canada, 2018: Initial findings from the Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces, Statistics Canada (2019), located at https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2019001/article/00017-eng.htm