In February 2018, over 20,000 U of T students completed Student Voices on Sexual Violence, an Ontario-wide survey about sexual violence sent by the provincial government to all postsecondary institutions. However, one year later the results have still not been released and the current Progressive Conservative (PC) government was unable to give a timeline on when the results can be expected.
With more than 160,000 students participating, the survey was created to help the province and universities benchmark and understand sexual violence.
It was developed in fall 2017 by the previous Liberal government’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, currently known under the PC government as the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (TCU).
In an interview with The Globe and Mail in March 2018, Mitzie Hunter, the previous Liberal minister and current MPP for Scarborough—Guildwood, said that the results would be released to postsecondary institutions in summer 2018, and that certain portions of the report would be released to the public that fall.
After the Liberals lost the June 2018 provincial election to the PCs, MPP Merrilee Fullerton succeeded Hunter as the new Minister of TCU, taking over responsibility for the release of the data.
Government blames privacy concerns for delay
Fullerton’s office told The Varsity that the results of the survey have not been compiled due to concerns about the confidentiality of students.
When asked for the reasons behind the delay and for a release date, Fullerton’s media relations representative Tanya Blazina wrote that the survey vendor, identified as CCI Research on the survey’s website, is “continuing the process of compiling the data in a way that protects participant privacy.”
“Initial projections underestimated the time this work would take.”
When pressed again for a release date, Blazina repeated that the project had underestimated the timeline.
According to the FAQ on the survey’s website, “CCI Research will conduct this survey in a manner that protects your identity… Results will only ever be reported in a format that preserves confidentiality.”
When CCI Research was asked by The Varsity to independently verify the government’s assessment about the survey’s progress, the company redirected all questions to Blazina.
When The Varsity asked Hunter about the delayed results, she noted that confidentiality was the utmost concern when developing the survey.
“I think [Fullerton] should explain what the risks are… There was thought given to confidentiality and the privacy of those [completing] the survey so that it would not be attributable to any individual,” she said.
“The survey has been completed by students for quite some time,” said Hunter. “It’s Minister Fullerton’s responsibility to make those results known to students and to the public.”
Increasing demands to release the data
Pressure has been mounting on the Ford government to release the survey results to universities and the public.
According to U of T Vice-Provost Students Sandy Welsh, the results of the survey currently remain unknown to schools and students alike.
“We have not received the data nor have any other universities,” she wrote to The Varsity.
Likewise, the Queen’s Journal, Queen’s University’s student paper, recently reported that Queen’s also has not received the results.
U of T group Silence is Violence, which recently released a 60-page report on sexual violence on campus, released a statement condemning the delay.
“The delay in releasing the data represents the PC government’s deprioritization of issues impacting women and other marginalized groups most affected by sexual trauma,” wrote Jessica Wright and Simran Dhunna, representatives of Silence is Violence.
Wright, a PhD candidate at U of T and researcher for Silence is Violence, believes that the survey’s results are necessary to create a safer campus.
“In order for [U of T] to act in accordance with Bill 132, which stipulates that they have [to] review their policies at least once every three years and then amend them as appropriate, and also [to] include student input in that process, we need to see the data from universities and colleges,” Wright told The Varsity. “We need to see what students said.”