By Zoe Melnyk
CESAR (Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson) hosted a town hall discussion on Feb. 5 at the Student Campus Centre to discuss Ryerson University’s future sexual assault policy.
The open discussion aimed to help students express their opinions on what the sexual assault policy should include, how it should be communicated, and the benefits from creating the policy.
Denis Hammond, president of CESAR, began the discussion alongside Rabbia Ashraf, CESAR’s director of events, Janet Rodriquez, CESAR director of Campaigns and Equity, and Pascale Diverlus, vice-president equity at Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU).
Hammond stressed the importance of students giving their input on which specific issues need to be addressed in the policy.
“It’s not good enough to just meet with stakeholders because the real stakeholders of this university are the students,” Hammond said.
Many students voiced their opinions and agreed upon several different ideas for the policy. One idea that students agreed upon was the need for clear and helpful resources for victims of sexual assault, including a website, hotline, and councilors where victims can disclose any incidents and receive the necessary assistance.
Students also requested that more meetings and lectures be held for all Ryerson students in order to discuss what sexual assault is and how to prevent it.
“We talk a lot about rape culture on our campuses but we need to start talking about consent culture and really teach folks what that looks like,” Diverlus said.
On campus, attendees said they want to see self defense classes more clearly advertised any easily accessible for any members of the university. Students also brought up the idea of having any offenders from the university be displayed in a list that students can see.
Anna Goldfinch, Ontario Representative of the Canadian Federation of Students, also made an appearance at the meeting to give students an update on what is happening in colleges and universities across Ontario.
“Ontario’s Premier is going to be making an announcement to talk about sexual assault and her action plans,” Goldfinch said. Premier Kathleen Wynne is scheduled to announce a plan to address sexual violence across the province on March 8.
Although many colleges and universities have already began creating sexual assault policies, Goldfinch said that Ryerson has taken “a bit of a nontraditional route” in tackling this issue.
“At Ryerson, I think it would be important to develop a committee with RSU and CESAR included to make sure students voices are heard,” Goldfinch said.
Ryerson appointed Vice-Provost Students Heather Lane Vetere in November 2014 to head a review into how Ryerson deals with sexual violence on campus. She has already met with both the RSU and CESAR along with staff and students and is expected to hold several more meetings with Ryerson community members before delivering the results of her review, along with recommendations for what Ryerson needs to change, later this semester.
Diverlus said she hopes the creation of a sexual assault policy at Ryerson will transform the campus into a safer community for all students.
“We need to make sure that students know that this is a campus that has no tolerance for sexual assault and also a campus that will support it’s them,” Diverlus said.