Content warning: Discussion of sexual violence

The Women and Gender Studies Student Union and the Community Knowledge Alliance, a Women and Gender Studies Institute initiative, sponsored an event on Friday aimed at addressing activism and accountability for sexual assault on campus.

The event drew speakers Bilan Arte, national deputy chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students; Lori Chambers, a professor of women’s studies at Lakehead University; and Wendy Kamiotis, executive director of METRAC (Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children).

One of the main topics of the evening was institutional responsibility for sexual assault. Chambers described her leadership role at Lakehead University developing institutional policies and creating a set of guidelines for professors to follow should they become aware of an instance of sexual assault.

Chambers said that the work she has done on the subject has drawn the attention of multiple small universities looking to implement similar initiatives. Chambers says that larger institutions have yet to seek her advice on the same.

Marvin Zuker, a family court judge and lecturer at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) for over 30 years, spoke on the university’s lack of leadership in addressing sexual violence. “It’s inexcusable that we have a code of conduct that hasn’t been updated since 2002,” Zucker said.

A recurrent theme of the evening was communication. Celia Wandio, a third-year student and founder of U of T Students against Sexual Violence, said the university has a long way to go in developing a prevention and survivor response strategy.

Wandio added that the university must listen to the groups on campus who are working to respond to sexual violence.
Of the many groups working towards this goal on campus, few obtained representation on the Student Advisory Committee to the Provost on Sexual Assault, prompting Wandio to launch a petition for broader representation.

During the question and answer portion of last Friday’s event, Amy*, a long-time activist, said that education plays a key role in reversing the trend of sexual violence. “If you teach people not to rape, they won’t,” she said.

*First name only used by request.