Western University is beefing up security and launching a task force on sexual violence and student safety in the wake of assault allegations that have rocked the London, Ontario campus.
The school is hiring new special agents, improving security patrols, and making in-person training mandatory for all students in residence to combat sexual violence. It is also creating a task force on sexual violence and student safety to try to eradicate sexual violence.
“This has been a tremendously difficult time for our students and the entire Western community,” university president Alan Shepard said in a press release Thursday. “We clearly have a cultural problem that we must address. We disappoint our students and their families. ”
Shepard noted that this is “the first step on a journey to deeply examine the prevailing culture on our campus and identify what else we can do to ensure the safety of every member of our community.”
The new measures follow a troubling start to the school year after allegations surfaced that female students had been drugged and sexually assaulted during Frosh week.
They were also announced on the same day that a post on Twitter was widely circulated. The author described herself as a senior and orientation week leader, also known as a soph. In the lengthy post, the author recalled the “horrible” and “life-changing” events of the past weekend.
“It was before midnight on Friday that we saw people starting to drop like flies,” he wrote. “We saw ambulances rush towards three girls separated within a radius of less than 100 meters. Rumors about drugged people immediately began to circulate. Sophs reported this early. “
He said sophs were not allowed into residential buildings due to the COVID-19 protocol and were denied access when they “begged the higher ups and management to check people out and let us help make sure everyone be safe. “
The Star reached out to the author but received no response at the time of publication.
In response to the Twitter post, Chris Alleyne, Western Associate Vice President for Housing and Support Services, said, “What happened to this student is completely unacceptable.”
“We contacted the student and referred the matter to the London Police. We want this student, and all of our students, to know that we are here for them and that we have the supports in place, ”said Alleyne, who is also the interim Associate Vice President of Student Experience.
The College Student Council, which oversees some sophomores and the orientation week that ran from September 6-12, expressed solidarity.
“We are incredibly proud of our student leaders who stepped forward in situations that they should never have been put in,” said fourth-year student Ziyana Kotadia, also vice president of college affairs for the student union.
“We meet with sophomores, listen to their experiences, provide support, grieve with them, and are bringing their stories to Western senior leaders. We are now asking Western to take action and work with USC to change the way we engage with gender / sexual violence and make our campus safer. “
By Thursday, the university had increased security at the residences and was offering confidential on-site counseling and professionals specializing in gender-based violence and survivor support available.
The new measures announced Thursday will require resident students to undergo sexual violence training beginning Sept. 20, with the goal of making it mandatory for everyone. Additionally, college sophomores can now access freshmen in residences, and 100 new safety ambassadors will be hired to support residents.
Western Says It Is Increasing Security By Hiring Four New Special Agents And Adding Night Patrols; on campus, special agents have the authority of the police, which includes making arrests. It is also hiring 15 new security guards and restarting the Peer-to-Peer Foot Patrol program that was stopped due to COVID-19. Additionally, he plans to upgrade the building alarms, lighting, security card access system, and security cameras.
The announcement came on the same day the province said all Ontario colleges and universities have until March to improve their sexual violence policies.
What happened last weekend at Western is still unclear, but a series of social media posts allege that female students were drugged and sexually assaulted at Medway-Sydenham Hall, a 613-bed residence. On Tuesday, London Police Chief Steve Williams said online posts “suggest that 30 or more students may have been victims” and that officers are actively investigating. At the time, he said police had yet to receive formal complaints about Med-Syd and urged those with information to come forward.
Police are also investigating three reports of alleged sexual assault involving four students last week at other locations on campus. A student was arrested in connection with a case, but was released. No charges have been filed.
That same weekend, 18-year-old freshman Gabriel Neil was violently assaulted and suffered life-threatening injuries. He died in the hospital on Sunday. Aliyan Ahmed, 21, is charged with murder. Police say there is no connection between Neil’s death and the alleged sexual assaults.
The woman who tweeted about her experience said there were “multiple instances” in which she and other sofs “were yelled at, pushed and inappropriately touched by men” during orientation week. She said sophomores helped with crisis situations involving disabled freshmen, and sophomores on her team encountered the “horrible scene” of Neil’s assault. While the first responders were busy with Neil and the alleged assailant, Sophs “dealt with the aftershock,” comforting two girls who had stopped to help and were covered in blood.
“We notified the administrator and begged him for more resources for them. They told us the situation was ‘off campus,’ ”he said, adding that resource links were sent out the next day.
“The trauma that so many sophomores and freshmen face is indescribable,” he said, adding that “the university failed to keep (the students) safe.”
“The events this weekend have completely changed people’s lives. The anger, shame, guilt, devastation and pain are palpable across the campus. “
The students are planning a strike on Friday to address their concerns. Also a petition launched at change.org calls on the Ministry of Colleges and Universities to carry out a “full formal investigation into Western University.”