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Protestors hang sign on Edward Johnson Building against sexual violence

Protest in response to alleged “open secret” of sexual violence and racism in Faculty of Music
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Protest sign hung up by community members. COURTESY OF CUPE 3902
Protest sign hung up by community members. COURTESY OF CUPE 3902

On October 25, anonymous members of the U of T community hung up a sign which said “U of T protects predators” on the doors of the Edward Johnson Building and spray painted the word “Shame” on the ground in front of it.

According to the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3902 (CUPE 3902), which posted about the incident on Twitter, the protest was a response to the “open secret” of pervasive sexual violence and racism that has circulated in the Faculty of Music for many years but never been properly addressed. 

The Faculty of Music released a letter in May that acknowledged this toxic culture and promised to create a working group that would facilitate transparent action against sexual harassment. 

The display did not remain in place for long, as Campus Safety removed it within half an hour of its installation. 

Other organizations have continued to organize in response to allegations of sexual harassment and violence in the Faculty of Music. The Faculty of Music Undergraduate Association released two statements on sexual violence in the spring, and it released an open letter addressed to the Faculty of Music in June. The letter included the signatures and testimonies of community members along with the association’s initial grievances and demands.

Though CUPE 3902 did not organize this particular protest action, it comes a few months after the union’s autonomous activist wing, the Flying Squad, assembled clotheslines along Philosopher’s Walk that displayed student testimonies about the faculty’s culture on note cards. In an email to The Varsity, CUPE 3902’s Chair Amy Conwell added that the union supports survivors’ right to protest.

CUPE 3902 added that it is organizing with members of the department to demand a more proactive system to prevent sexual violence “with timelines for responses, protections for survivors and whistleblowers, and real consequences for perpetrators.”

The protest also comes after an investigation by Al Jazeera published allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct recently against former Trinity College provost, vice-chancellor, and professor of English and medieval studies Andy Orchard. In response to The Varsity’s request for comment on the allegations, a representative for Orchard wrote, “Our client denies these allegations and will co-operate fully with the university in any enquiry it wishes to make. He has no further comment.”