Students for Survivors
The periodic review of the Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment comes on the heels of a turbulent year. While the widely-publicized protests at Western University throw the issue of on-campus sexual violence into sharp relief, the summer’s events at the Faculty of Music and the recent allegations against Dr. Andy Orchard highlight the issue painfully close to home for many at the University of Toronto.
This university has swept the issue of on-campus sexual violence under the rug for too long. Between soaring rates of sexual violence among post-secondary students and a support centre which seems incapable of answering its phone, the University has routinely failed survivors for years. This policy review must act as an opportunity for the University to restructure its practices and priorities.
We’ve had enough. Survivors deserve better.
The above video was released as part of the Students For Survivors campaign at the University of Toronto, which is a collaboration between The PEARS Project, the Faculty of Music Undergraduate Association, and the University of Toronto Students’ Union. It contains real statements made by survivors of gender-based violence at the University of Toronto, which were collected through an ongoing survey released by The PEARS Project.
Improve On-Campus Resources & Supports for Survivors
Among student activists and peer supporters at the University of Toronto, there is an unspoken understanding that the Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre should be held at an arm’s length. While it is the only place that students can go for academic accommodations after an incident of sexual violence, it is underfunded, difficult to access, and lacking in its intersectional approach.
Reaching out for support is a daunting task. When a survivor makes the brave initial step to call the Centre, there should be someone there to answer.
Address Authority-Related Sexual Violence and Harassment
To date, there is no policy at the University of Toronto which bars a professor from pursuing an intimate relationship with a student. This is despite the known harm such relationships cause to students, and despite bans at other leading institutions. There is no situation in which the power dynamic between a member of faculty/staff and an undergraduate student does not make consent suspect. Universities are institutions of learning, not dating pools for staff.
Develop a Sexual Violence Prevention Plan
The most effective way to address an incident of sexual violence is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Unfortunately, the University’s response to sexual violence to date is almost entirely reactionary, with little to no preventative action. Once the University has investigated the driving factors of rape culture on campus, it must determine next steps for adequately minimizing them through prevention-based mechanisms.
Increase Transparency Surrounding Disclosure/Reporting Procedures
For those who experience sexual violence on-campus, the institution has already failed to protect them once. It is imperative that the University be honest with them about their options, as well as potential complications that may occur. A survivor of sexual violence should be made aware of the details of the disclosure/reporting procedures before they choose to do so – this is the basic principle of informed consent.
Investigate the Driving Factors of Rape Culture
Universities have been a known sexual violence “hot spot” for decades, and rates have not declined since they began to be recorded. Rape culture is the normalization of societal attitudes which excuse and trivialize sexual violence, and it is alive and well at the University of Toronto. It is impossible to address an issue without determining its root cause, and for that reason, the University must commit to investigating the driving factors or rape culture on campus.
An Open Letter to the University of Toronto Faculty of Music
In early May of 2021, allegations of sexual violence within the Faculty of Music began circulating on social media. The FMUA published this open letter as a response, urging the Faculty to take actions to ensure a safe environment for its students. The letter would go on to amass a staggering 75+ pages’ worth of signatures, including over 60 stories of sexual harassment and abuse by students and staff alike.
Published by: Faculty of Music Undergraduate Association (FMUA), 23 May 2021
Open Letter RE: Allegations against former Trinity Provost Dr. Andy Orchard
Since January 2021, TASAH had been aware of the predatory reputation of former Trinity College Provost Dr. Andy Orchard. In the wake of an Al-Jazeera article published in October which alleged sexual misconduct by Dr. Orchard, TASAH released an open letter calling for an investigation into potential incidents during his time at the University, a ban on student-faculty relationships, and mandatory sexual violence prevention training for all student-facing staff.
Published by: Trinity Against Sexual Assault & Harassment (TASAH), 1 November 2021 along with an Open Letter RE: Allegations against former Trinity Provost Dr. Andy Orchard
Expanding on research by the 2019-20 VP Professional Faculties, the UTSU published a report on the ethical implications of relationships between faculty members and their students. The report advocated for a ban on intimate relationships between faculty members and all undergraduate students.
Published by: University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), 1 February, 2022
Statement RE: Sexual violence in the Faculty of Music & the University community
In solidarity with the FMUA, the UTSU published a statement calling for the University to address authority-related sexual violence and harassment on campus, improve current resources for survivors of sexual violence, improve the accessibility of their policies/procedures, and perform evaluations of the Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre.
Published by: University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), 22 July 2021
We Deserve Better: A Student-Driven & Informed Review of UofT’s Policy on Sexual Violence
In collaboration with Viktoria Belle of The Dandelion Initiative and Jessica Ketwaroo-Green of the Women Abuse Council of Toronto, The PEARS Project created a preliminary review of the University’s Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment. After two town halls and feedback gathered from their survey, they will be publishing an updated version in February 2022.
Published by: The PEARS Project, December 2021
VOICES Through the Arts
VOICES Through the Arts is a recorded performance featuring the contributions of artists, survivors, and allies from all over the University of Toronto community. Organized by the Faculty of Music Undergraduate Association (FMUA), this showcase features performances in diverse artistic mediums, including music, dance, poetry, and visual art. This campaign aims to combat gender-based violence at the institutional level and bring to light the ways we can help and advocate for survivors. See the full showcase below.