Western University has increased security on campus and in student residences following several reports of sexual assault during Orientation Week. Around the same time, a freshman was killed after a violent assault near campus, adding to the students’ sense of shock.
The University of London, Ontario, received four formal complaints of sexual violence from students in the past week, said Chris Alleyne, associate vice president for housing and support services. Some of the complaints have led to arrests, he added.
“We have taken swift and energetic action in these cases, including facilitating the arrest and expulsion of students from their residence while investigations continue,” Alleyne said in a statement, adding that sexual violence “will never be tolerated at Western.”
“We will continue to take action on every disclosure and complaint,” he said.
The assaults allegedly occurred during Orientation Week, which began on September 6 and ended on Sunday. The reports of sexual violence first emerged through a series of social media posts, alleging that female students were drugged and sexually assaulted in the final days of orientation at the Medway-Sydenham Hall residence. None of those reports have been verified by the Star, although London police said they are investigating the allegations.
Alleyne said the four complaints Western received “do not appear” to be connected to each other or to what was reported on social media.
The same weekend, an 18-year-old Health Sciences freshman Gabriel Neil was violently assaulted on Saturday morning near the Western Student Recreation Center. Neil suffered fatal injuries and died in hospital Sunday night. Police arrested Aliyan Ahmed, 21, charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Since then, students have expressed feeling unsafe on campus, including Western University junior and orientation week leader Lauryn Bikos, who wrote in a series of tweets that she and others are shocked by the aftermath of the campus violence.
“There are no words to describe how badly the last 72 hours have impacted this community,” Bikos wrote, adding that this year’s orientation week has been “brutal” and the aggression towards students and orientation leaders in the campus is “scary”.
Liam Afonso, editor-in-chief of the student newspaper The Gazette, said: “The atmosphere here is hard to describe. It’s grim, ”adding that students are“ in shock ”over the death of a student and recent allegations of sexual assault that have left some women feeling unsafe.
“So many things are happening, it’s hard to understand,” said Afonso, who has been in college for five years and has never seen such a raucous start to the school year.
“What is it about this year that has caused all of this to happen? … That’s the million dollar question, ”he said. “A lot of people have been asking that and I really don’t know, but something is different this year.”
In a statement on Monday, the London Police Service said it opened an investigation into alleged sexual assaults at Medway-Sydenham Hall, a residence building at Western University, though it has not received any formal report related to the allegations.
Police said they received two reports of sexual assault in the previous week, however, which occurred elsewhere on campus. “These incidents remain under investigation, and part of that investigation will include examining possible links to any unreported incidents,” said police spokesman Const. Scott Mandich said.
In an emailed letter Saturday to Medway-Sydenham Hall residents, Residential Life Coordinator Jacob Clarke acknowledged that students “may have heard rumors about incidents of sexual or gender-based violence at Med-Syd.”
“We are currently following up on the information that has been submitted and will use campus and community resources such as campus security and emergency services and London police services as needed,” according to the letter posted on the The Gazette student newspaper.
“We want to make sure that anyone who has suffered damage is followed up. Contact a Residence Life coordinator for assistance. If you have been affected by or witnessed an incident of gender-based violence, you are encouraged to share information. “
The events took place during a week that got off to a turbulent start.
In a joint statement on September 7, the university president and rector, Alan Shepard, and the president of the Council of University Students, Zamir Fakirani, warned: “We have seen a disturbing trend in recent days that puts our entire year in danger.
“This past weekend there were several large gatherings near campus, along with aggressive behavior that put the safety of others at risk. This activity is in blatant disregard for the campus community, public health and the law, ”they wrote.
As reported in The Gazette, the letter was in response to noisy crowds that had gathered, on and off campus, and posts on social media that showed students splitting on residential streets, jumping off power poles, and from above. stop of parked cars. The letter warned that if the uproar continues, in-person learning and extracurricular activities will be lost.
Bikos, the leader of Orientation Week, added in her Twitter posts that the assault on campus during orientation was not limited to alleged sexual assaults. She said that she and other guidance leaders were called profanity when they asked students to wear a mask at events.
In his posts, Bikos called on the university for not suspending classes after the death of a student to give people time to cry. He also asked Western to implement significant changes to address what he said is a “toxic” culture. “We have the right to feel safe on campus,” wrote Bikos.
Incidents of sexual violence on campus have been documented in the past, specifically in a 2018 Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey conducted on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. TO results report revealed that 71.6 percent of Western students surveyed had experienced sexual harassment on campus within a year of the survey, the highest of any Ontario college or university.
On Sunday, the College Student Council released a statement saying it is “heartbroken by what we are hearing inside the halls and on campus.” The student-run organization added Monday that it is evaluating recent incidents and working to adjust the schedule as a result.
“While we cannot comment on ongoing investigations, we want to make it absolutely clear that we listen to them, support survivors, and are here to receive your feedback on how Western can be a safer campus,” said the statement from the Sunday. . “We also want to make sure that students can access the support they need.”