U of T releases survey on sexual violence

Survey driven by provincial legislation

U of T releases survey on sexual violence

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.

Sexual harassment accusations in survey represent one fight in a long battle

Re: “Online survey details 16 accusations of sexual harassment at U of T”

Sexual harassment accusations in survey represent one fight in a long battle

The problem with anonymously reporting sexual abuse — where neither the accused nor the accuser is named — is that it does not hold the perpetrators accountable. This allows sexual harassment to be recurrent and yet remain unacknowledged institutionally. As the #MeToo movement has taken on a life of its own, women in various workplaces, including in academia, have found themselves able to publicly share stories of sexual harassment. A student advice website founded by former professor Karen Kelsky, The Professor Is In, created a crowdsourced survey that brought several sexual harassment cases within the University of Toronto to light.

The aim of this survey, however, appears not to have been revealing the identity of the harassers but revealing the problem and scale of violence in universities in general. While this is a noble idea that allows us to document the extent of sexual violence that survivors endure in academia without shaming and humiliating them, the anonymity of the survey also lets the harassers go virtually unexposed and unpunished.

Academia remains a field in which the lines of informality and formality between students and professors are often difficult to ascertain. While we can hold our heads high and know that there are more women coming into academia and challenging the patriarchal hierarchy, the results of the survey show that 15 of the 16 U of T accusations were made against male professors by female graduate students.

Inclusion of women in academia, workplaces, and political positions is important and necessary, but it is certainly not enough. To tackle the hierarchy and to bring about true equality, the institutions and the cultural and behavioural attitudes of their members will have to change.

While the survey was an important step in identifying and acknowledging the fact that sexual harassment does, in fact, occur on this campus, it is merely a first step toward solving the problem itself, and it should be accompanied by institutional policies targeted toward accountability and discipline.


Shazre Khan is a fourth-year student at Woodsworth College studying Political Science and Ethics, Society and Law.