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Rye’s role in preventing workplace harassment

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By Denise Paglinawan

In a time where people in positions of power are being exposed for sexual misconduct, students may need to be prepared if they experience sexual harassment at work—especially those entering politics or the media industry.

After an array of Hollywood personalities were accused of sexual misconduct, Canadian politics followed suit. In January, the former president and leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) Party, Rick Dykstra and Patrick Brown respectively, resigned after facing allegations of sexual misconduct.

In the same week, former Nova Scotia PC Party leader Jamie Bail- lie and former federal Sport and Disabilities Minister Kent Hehr resigned after being accused of sexual harassment.

But so far, several politics and creative programs aren’t offering anything that can prepare students for workplace sexual harassment. It looks like Ryerson has no plans to change this.

Ryerson does offer an e-Learning program for employees called Workplace Violence Prevention and Response Program, which tries to address workplace violence that may occur on-campus or at work-related activities occurring off-campus, but it’s not available for students who do not work on campus.

First-year politics and governance student Persia Ciadat said sexual harassment in the workplace should be discussed more often in her program because of the power dynamics and negative perceptions of women in politics.

“It’s still such a prevalent thing, especially in politics, where it’s a power struggle between men and women. I do really feel that they should do something about that or they should talk about it more,” Ciadat said.

Robyn Matuto, a third-year film studies student, said the School of Image Arts doesn’t do much to prepare students for workplace sexual harassment. “Honestly, I don’t really think they teach us a lot about etiquette in general,” Matuto said.

The Eyeopener reached out to Christopher Gore, chair of the department of Politics and Public Administration and Carolyn Johns, the undergraduate program director of Public Administration and Governance, but they did not comment in time for publication.

Ciadat said the recent expositions in Canadian politics did not affect how she feels about pursuing a career in public office. “If anything, it has encouraged me to pursue it. With the #MeToo movement, it’s evident that change is possible.”

She said she’s inspired by women who stood up for themselves in the face of harassment. Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD) Dean Charles Falzon said the faculty is thinking constantly about how they can help pre- pare students for these situations.

“I know FCAD teachers worry about their students’ safety and we’ve all been shocked by the extent to which women have been abused and harassed by some leaders in creative and other fields,” he said via email.

Falzon said there are group discussions on the subject of sexual misconduct and the school offers support and advice from specialists on harassment issues. However, he did not elaborate on which programs do or how they prepare students when asked.

Gerda Cammaer, program director of film studies, said a course to prepare students for sexual assault in the workplace is not the solution. She said a general cultural change in the workplace and fixing the curriculum is needed rather than a course that teaches students how to handle workplace sexual harassment.

When asked what the School of Image Arts is doing to prepare stu- dents for workplace sexual harassment, Blake Fitzpatrick, chair of the school, said there is an annual event called Women in Film, which provides an opportunity for women in the film industry and women studying film to discuss all aspects of the industry including sexual harassment.

“We invite women who work in the field to talk to our students about their experiences, what they have learned, the good, the bad and the ugly,” Cammaer said. “It would be very difficult to turn that into an academic course.”

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