Students are receiving email invitations from the administration to participate in a ‘Student Voices on Sexual Violence’ survey, an initiative mandated by the provincial government.
U of T is surveying all full-time students from February 26 to March 26 as a “tool for benchmarking and understanding sexual violence on university campuses,” according to a statement from Vice-Provost Students Sandy Welsh.
The survey is being conducted at institutions across the province by CCI Research Inc. on behalf of the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development. Ontario Bill 132, which amended the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act to include a section on sexual violence, is the legal mandate behind the survey.
The amendment sets requirements for Ontario postsecondary institutions regarding data collection and sexual violence reporting.
It also defines sexual violence as “any sexual act or act targeting a person’s sexuality, gender identity or gender expression, whether the act is physical or psychological in nature, that is committed, threatened or attempted against a person without the person’s consent, and includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, voyeurism and sexual exploitation.”
Students are incentivized to complete the 20-minute survey with a $5 electronic gift card for Amazon, Starbucks, or Indigo.
The survey includes questions regarding personal information, experiences with sexual violence, understanding of consent, knowledge of support and reporting resources, and level of satisfaction with the university’s handling of sexual violence cases.
Silence is Violence (SiV), an anti-sexual violence student advocacy group on campus, has had its own sexual violence survey open to the public since February 13. SiV’s survey was launched after a year and a half of development, and it was not created in response to the university’s survey.
Jessica Wright, who conducts research at SiV, is critical of the fact that the initiative for the survey came from a government mandate. Wright expressed skepticism about how the information will be used and about whether the U of T survey will be effective. “Part of the culture of the university perpetuates the cultural conditions that make rape and sexual assault so horrifyingly common,” she said.
In a statement on U of T News, Welsh said that the feedback from the survey “will help us better understand the experiences of our students and their needs and concerns.”
Welsh further added, “This will ultimately help us improve the university’s support services for our community.”
If you have experienced sexual violence you can call Campus Police at (416) 978-2222 for UTSG and UTSC or (905) 569-4333 for UTM.
Support is also available through the Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre, which can be reached by phone at (416) 978-2266 and is located at 702 Spadina Avenue at UTSG, Room 3094G in the Davis Building at UTM, and Room 141 in the Environmental Science & Chemistry Building at UTSC.