Content warning: This article contains mentions of sexual violence and harassment.

On January 9 — less than a week after Toronto Police Service (TPS) arrested and charged a man for voyeurism in the fall semester — the St. George campus saw another incident of voyeurism

According to a community alert sent by Campus Safety on January 10, an unidentified person allegedly held a cellphone above a shower stall in an all-gender washroom at the college’s Wilson Hall residence. U of T sent the alert to all students living in New College residence. 

Unlike previous incidents, U of T did not inform the entire UTSG community about this most recent report, prompting criticism from student activists. This contrasts with the voyeurism incidents in 2023, where Campus Security sent at least three email alerts to the entirety of the St. George student body. In some of those incidents, which students reported from July to October 2023, the individual also allegedly held a cell phone under stalls in women’s and all-gender washrooms.

In a January 30 email to The Varsity, Vice-Provost, Students Sandy Welsh wrote that the Toronto Police Service (TPS) and Campus Safety investigation into the incident is ongoing. Campus Safety plans to increase late-night patrols while the investigation remains open.

A picture worth a thousand concerns

In 2023, when individuals reported instances of voyeurism to the Campus Safety Office, the office sent out alerts to all St. George students on October 24, November 22, and January 4 of the following year, when TPS arrested the suspect. So far, Campus Safety has yet to send out any UTSG student-body-wide emails regarding the most recent incident on January 9.

Welsh wrote that, along with the community alert, Campus Safety personally gave printouts of the notice to residents on the third floor and left the printouts under the doors of students who didn’t answer. They also posted the notices in all New College Residence restrooms. 

“As far as we know, yes, UofT has yet to inform the general student body about the January 9th act of voyeurism,” Aidan Thompson, Vice-President, Public & University Affairs of the University of Toronto Students’ Union wrote to The Varsity.

“What the University’s rationale is behind choosing a mechanism of communication that notably falls short of how they handled those incidents in the Fall is beyond us, but clearly their decision is putting the student body at risk.”

Welsh wrote that, in the previous case, the university released an all-campus alert after it had obtained photographs of the suspect “so individuals who travel between campuses could be on the lookout for the suspect.” However, the TPS and Campus Safety lack a photo of the suspect in this case.

In an interview with The Varsity, Jay Prentice — co-director of The Prevention, Empowerment, Advocacy, Response, for Survivors (PEARS) Project, a U of T student advocacy group that supports victims of sexual violence by providing resources and peer support — said that Campus Safety not informing all students erodes trust between students and the university.

“Considering this was only told to New College residences, where does this happen elsewhere?” said Prentice, a fifth-year student studying at UTSG, who is majoring in criminology and critical studies in equity and solidarity with a minor in sexual diversity studies.

“Are there other incidents that are just not broadcast to U of T students? What are we not hearing?” they added.

Ella Freeburn — a New College student and third-year critical studies in equity and solidarity major — told The Varsity that she only heard about the voyeurism incidents by word of mouth.

Freeburn, who is president of New College Against Sexual Assault & Harassment (NASAH), which is the New College chapter of PEARS, raised concerns that U of T might not have broadcasted the latest voyeurism incident to protect its reputation. “I honestly think that that’s an image thing because the first one did get backlash. They had just recently sent out that the person got arrested, and everything is good. And then, less than a week later, this one happens,” she said.

In a post on Instagram on January 16, NASAH called on U of T and New College to inform students of the incidents and “address how the University plans to inform students of these events and risks in the future.”

Four of seven non-New College students who reached out to The Varsity through a survey form were not aware of the recent incident.

Securing security

Juan Loaiza, a second-year New College student who is a political science specialist, said that a  lack of security in New College residences may be to blame — a feature of the residence buildings that he has personal experience with.

“My friend lived in this building last year and we were here all the time. I would come in with no notice and the people who work would know me and they would sometimes let me in for fun because they would see me all the time,” he said.

For Loaiza, implementing a TCard swiping system like the one at Robarts Library could help prevent future crimes.

Indi Treon-Mutuma — a first-year pursuing humanities and a resident of Wilson Smith, where the report of the January 4 voyeurism incident took place — said she doesn’t feel the need for more security measures in her building, but she did feel fearful when she first read the Campus Security email. “I didn’t think it would happen to me or anything, but I was still cautious of [the voyeurism]. When I use the bathroom now, I kind of look around.”

“That kind of stuff is more likely to happen in a frat party, or a bar, or a restaurant, because you don’t know those people, but you wouldn’t really expect that to happen somewhere where you live,” Treon-Mutuma said.

Prentice said that there are downsides to an increase in campus security, citing risks to racialized and otherwise marginalized students. “We were told, with the last case of voyeurism, there were more checks going on, there were more Campus Safety officers deployed, and it still took a year to catch him,” they said. 

The residential floors of New College residences can be accessed only with a key. On the afternoon of January 25, a Varsity representative found they could still enter the all-gender washrooms on a residential floor without a key, however, people entering and exiting the building may leave the door open temporarily. 

Editor’s note (February 5): This article has been updated to include comment from the university.