Brandon University Students Demand Institutional Accountability about Sexual Violence
Brandon, Manitoba – Students are demanding action from Brandon University following information received about the ways in which the university handles complaints of sexual violence. Students, following reports of sexual violence, are made to sign a Behavioural Contract that specifies that students cannot talk about the case with anyone besides a councilor. Discipline following infractions of the contract include, but are not limited to, “suspension and/or expulsion from Brandon University”.
Recent public cases, including those at Brock University and the University of Victoria, have pointed to the problems that arise when universities demand silence from the victims of sexual violence. Silence allows universities to continue to place the protection of the university’s reputation above the safety and well-being of students on campus. Brandon University has reported zero instances of sexual assaults on campus for each of the last six years. Silence prevents students who have experienced sexual assault the ability to counter this narrative, and takes away their agency.
The Government of Manitoba has proposed Bill 3, a bill which would necessitate that universities develop specific, standalone policies to address sexual violence on campus. Brandon University currently has no such standalone policy, instead dealing with cases of sexual violence through the Respectful Environment Policy. Bill 3 would also force universities to publicly report on the university’s activities under the policy, as well as publicly report on the results of these activities. These are all positive steps, but do not address the problems still in place until a policy is created, nor do they address the larger problem of rape culture on university campuses.
Students pay good money to attend institutions like Brandon University. We should have a reasonable expectation of safety, but we know that university students are more likely than the general public to experience sexual violence. Brandon University needs to do more to ensure that the university is a safe place to learn and work for students, faculty, and staff. In addition to policy, the university needs to undertake an education strategy and offer both bystander intervention training and sexual violence prevention training.
Students have organized to ensure that those who experience sexual violence are not silenced. We have started a blog where students can anonymously share their stories of sexual violence at Brandon University. We are also organizing an event that will take place Wednesday April 6th, 2016 starting officially at 8:00am and will carry on through the day. The main location of the event is in the mingling area of the Knowles–Douglas Building, as well as a visual display out in the courtyard, called Airing BU’s Dirty Laundry, where we will raise awareness about the problems that students face in both reporting and in seeking justice.
While we wish that there were in fact zero sexual assaults that occur at Brandon University each year, we know that this is not the case. Brandon University needs to act to ensure that they deal with the problem of sexual violence, rather than attempting to make it disappear by silencing victims. Those within the university, as well as the broader community, need to hold Brandon University accountable to ensure that they act, both in terms of creating policy, but also to educate people within the university.
For more information, please contact:
Stefon Irvine, pre-psychiatric nursing student