Western University students watch strike amid troubling start to school year

Western University students plan a strike on Friday to demand action against sexual violence on campus amid speculation about assaults at a freshman residence.

The campus community is on edge following the murder of a freshman and rumors of multiple alleged sexual assaults at the Medway-Sydenham residence of 613 students, speculation that has skyrocketed on social media just as the school year begins.

London police said they are working with the university to investigate the “serious and disturbing allegations” but have found very little information so far. The London police chief said Tuesday there have been no reports of assaults at the residence, known as Med-Syd.

Police have investigated three separate allegations of sexual assault involving four students at locations not connected to Med-Syd, Chief Steve Williams said. A student was arrested but is no longer in custody and no charges have been filed, he said.

Hayden Van Neck is among more than 20 Western students who stage a strike on Friday to show their support for survivors of sexual assault and to protest against what they describe as the “predominant threat of rape culture on campus.

“We are outraged by the recent events on our campus; gender-based sexual violence, as well as a separate act of violence, ”said Van Neck, a third-year psychology student. “In essence, we will meet as a community on Friday to show our support, but we would also like to ask our institution to make some changes to avoid having to do this in the future.”

Organizers have filed several demands, including mandatory training in SGBV education for students, faculty, and staff; clarity on the process for reporting sexual violence; and responsibility in creating a safer campus.

Students are asked to leave class on Friday noon and meet in front of University College (UC) Hill before touring the university. The details of the route will be made public shortly.

Participants are asked to wear a mask and the color teal, which represents Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which takes place in April.

The strike will feature speakers from sexual assault survivors and local organizations, including Teigan Elliott, a member of a student-led group at King’s University College dedicated to studying and combating sexual violence.

Unsure of the exact numbers, she said her team expects to see “significant participation” on Friday, adding that social media posts have already garnered participation in the thousands.

The event comes just days after the death of Gabriel Neil, a freshman who was assaulted around 2 a.m. Saturday in a parking lot at the intersection of Sarnia and Western highways. Later he died in hospital. Police have charged a 21-year-old London man with manslaughter in his death.

An online petition, which can be found here, had more than 4,000 signatures as of Wednesday morning.


WHAT: Western Strike for Gender-Based Sexual Violence (SGBV)

WHEN: Friday at noon

WHERE: Across from University College (UC) Hill at Western University.

INFORMATION: on Instagram at instagram.com/sgbvwalkoutuwo/ or on Twitter @UWOSGBVWalkout.


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