A review into U of T Campus Police following the October 11 “U of T Rally for Free Speech” has commenced under the purview of Alexis Archbold, Assistant Dean at the Faculty of Law. It is set to be completed by the end of the semester.
The inquiry was launched by the university following a statement made by the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) on October 16, claiming “the Campus Police refused to intervene when they knew of and saw trans folks being assaulted” at the rally. The review began soon after the UTSU’s statement was released.
In an interview with The Varsity, U of T Media Relations Director Althea Blackburn-Evans confirmed that the review was “well underway,” it would be “examining all aspects of the rally,” and that “the goal is to have the report completed this term.”
The UTSU’s demands for “a full, public inquiry” of Campus Police emphasized the importance of student participation in the investigation, stating that an inquiry devoid of student participation “will not be sufficient.” Blackburn-Evans highlighted the involvement of many stakeholders in the review of Campus Police, stating that Archbold had been “conducting interviews, looking at video footage, any reports related to [the rally], and then also reviewing any relevant U of T policies.”
When asked about the importance of student involvement in the review process, UTSU President Jasmine Wong Denike emphasized in a statement to The Varsity that the Campus Police “are the people hired to serve and protect” students, which “is why the investigation should be public.”
Blackburn-Evans stated that the university was “very disappointed that the event on October 11 devolved in the way it did” and aims to “ensure that topics can be discussed and debated openly and with respect… in a way that’s safe for the community.”
She emphasized the importance of the review into the Campus Police’s conduct at the rally in order to “examine how things unfolded and see what could perhaps be addressed in different ways next time around.”
Denike’s statement to The Varsity also expressed the union’s desire for “an investigation not only into what happened on Tuesday, October 11, but into what Campus Police has and hasn’t been doing in regards to student safety on campus,” by thoroughly examining the “treatment of marginalized students” on campus in general.
In a previous statement to The Varsity, Denike spoke of a need for more proactive, preventative measures, such as “training in gender identity and the barriers facing trans and non-binary students” for all U of T staff members, in addition to the public inquiry into the Campus Police’s alleged failure to protect trans and non-binary students at the rally.
When asked whether the university was taking steps to implement such a training program, Blackburn-Evans stated that “informal communication has taken place now between UTSU and the Sexual and Gender Diversity Office, which is connected to the Office of the Vice-President HR & Equity. The university is in the process of determining how widely the equity and gender training might be given.”
Blackburn-Evans continued: “U of T is very, very proud of our diverse campuses and we are continually looking at proactive ways to support equity and diversity across the University.”