Posted in Opinions, Top Opinions

SFU and ResLife have failed women on campus

I’m infuriated by the lack of response to the residence rapes in the name of ‘keeping students safe’

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Image Credits: Chiara Kreutz

Provided you don’t live under a rock, you have most likely heard of the three rape allegations against one male SFU student that have recently come to light. According to news reports, the alleged rapist was permitted to live on Residence through the Fall and Spring semesters alongside his victims. Two of said victims have reportedly dropped out of university and have removed themselves from residence due to feeling so unsafe.

Overnight, this issue has provoked widespread concern among staff and students alike, with the dominant tone of response being anger and shock — and rightfully so. Upon questioning, both ResLife and SFU have hidden behind vague, PR-saturated statements. SFU spokesperson Kurt Heinrich claimed that SFU worked with the RCMP and “undertook measures to ensure the safety of the campus community,” as The Vancouver Sun reports.  

One of the victims reportedly felt too unsafe to eat at the Dining Hall alone, or leave her room. When the victim and her parents pressured SFU to act on the allegations, he was merely moved to a different building — where no other female student was warned. How can this be framed as ensuring safety? As a female student at Simon Fraser who currently lives on SFU residence, I do not feel safe. I do not feel protected. ResLife and SFU have allowed a dangerous man to infiltrate our small, friendly residence community, with no warning whatsoever.  

As a former employee of SFU ResLife, I have witnessed people evicted for “alleged drug use” and “excessive noise complaints.” Trivial reasons, justified with well-worded proclamations of keeping this community “safe.” I don’t know about you, but I would much rather live next to a stoner than a rapist, obviously.

As a female student who currently lives on SFU residence, I do not feel safe. I do not feel protected.

Ironically enough, I was reprimanded for (albeit, aggressively) questioning ResLife’s sexual assault policies in a training session. Their response was to quickly gloss over the topic, and the session continued. It seemed then, and is clear now, that they have very few answers. In fact, the organization is still grasping at straws on how to handle such a serious crime. When I asked current ResLife employees to comment on the situation, I was quickly given the business card of yet another media representative, and informed that they had strict instructions from their bosses to refuse to comment.

When moving into residence, you are required to sign a contract that explicitly states that you agree to “abide by all federal, provincial, and local government laws, regulations, and bylaws and all SFU rules, regulations, [and] policies,” or SFU may “terminate” your contract. SFU’s pathetic sexual assault policy states that any form of sexual violence will not be tolerated. Newsflash: rape is not only illegal and reprehensible, but explicitly against the contract that is so often wielded over residents’ heads for much less important issues.

The image SFU and ResLife desperately try to create is that of a safe campus. On residence and throughout SFU, I hear a lot from staff and administration about the “community”: that it is safe, healthy, and inclusive. Now, when I think of these ideals, I feel sick and betrayed. I can’t help but feel infuriated on behalf of those girls who were made to fear their own living space, while SFU and ResLife hid behind empty rhetoric.

In a “safe” community, two girls wouldn’t feel so at risk that they would decide to quit school, and an alleged rapist would not be permitted to share a bathroom with unknowing, unwarned residents.  

With our ongoing, seemingly undeserved reputation of being a ‘progressive campus,’ I would have expected a much faster and adequate response from the administration. This obvious lack of diligence infuriates me. I’m angry for myself, for my peers, and for the victims. These actions have not only failed to protect the survivors, but all women residing on campus.

  • Raymon Gulati

    I’m genuinely curious to know, how is this a university issue?

    Shouldn’t he be reported to the police and criminal charges be brought against him? If he is guilty, then the issue should be resolved in the judicial system (the administration can do very little to truly establish guilt or punish him). If he’s innocent, the administration has no business telling him what to do.

    I’m really sorry to hear about the two victims who had to drop out of university because they were feeling unsafe. They deserve better.

    • Témi Afuye

      Most universities and colleges have what’s called the “Title IX” act which basically leaves any form of sexual assault or sexual misconduct up to the school’s discretion with the result of expulsion if the person is found guilty. After that, the case gets closed. So basically rapists aren’t put behind bars, they just get expelled and it gets put on their school transcript. Its honestly the most stupidest thing to have implemented but apparently its the law. Yes you could eventually appeal your case and have your rapist put in jail or at least tried in a criminal court, but the chances of you getting that opportunity are very slim. Sadly, most universities care more about their reputation than the do the lives of their students .

      • Ian Stewart

        I haven’t heard of Title IX in Canadian law. Do you have a source on that?

      • Amanda Klassen

        Title IX is a US statue which guarantees equal access to students, regardless of gender. As a part of this, it includes a requirement for processes to protect students from sexual violence. It does not preclude a formal criminal investigation; students are free to pursue this if they please, but the inclusion of LE is at their discretion. Expulsion is a possible consequence for the accused, but the vast majority never make it that far.

    • Amanda Klassen

      SFU does not have the same kind of power to impose sanctions on the accused, so is not held to the same standards as those required to establish guilt in a court of law. Furthermore, no one has (yet) suggested that he be suspended or expelled; the question at hand is his ability to continue living in Residence. People have evidently been evicted for far lesser offenses which did not require definite proof before termination of their contracts with ResLife. No one says a word about people being kicked out of their homes due to an alleged joint or some loud music, but once it’s sexual assault, we should be up in arms about the due process rights of the accused?

      This bizarre double standard is a gross betrayal of the women who rely on SFU to provide them with a safe living space. No one should have to risk re-victimisation by law enforcement just to have somewhere safe to live.

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