Women students say they want better security amidst fears of sexual harassment

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By Nalyn Tindall

Women students at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) expressed concern over the frequency of sexual harassment and catcalling on campus. As daylight hours decrease, women on campus say they want better security in order to feel safe when walking between buildings.

Many students described the amount of open space on campus as a safety concern after multiple sexual assaults were reported last semester, according to the TMU Community Safety and Security’s website.  

TMU students say they have come to expect sexual harassment on campus as part of their every day life. “[Catcalling] is a very common occurrence, but that’s just living in downtown Toronto,” said third-year business management student Maleeha Taimur. 

Taimur said she has been catcalled outside the Victoria building, despite being in a group during the daytime. When asked if she felt safe on campus, she explained she has mixed feelings.

“Yes and no because we don’t exactly have a campus, it’s just like a big open space in the city,” Taimur said. 

[Catcalling] is a very common occurrence

She also said she’s been catcalled on campus by other students, including an incident where a large group of male students shouted at her and her friends while walking down Gould Street, despite it being a busy area.

Taimur described feeling unsafe last spring, when a student was allegedly assaulted on campus. In March, a university community member reported to TMU Security that they were sexually assaulted in Kerr Hall, according to a security incident released by the university.

“You never know who can come into the buildings,” she said.

Nicole Gabriele, a fourth-year architecture student also said the amount of open space between the university buildings can be both positive and negative. 

“We have OneCard access but anyone can walk around campus,” said Gabriele. “It’s part of the city. That’s what I like about it.”

She expressed appreciation for campus security but said she doesn’t see security as often in the evening.

According to 2018 data from Statistics Canada, one in three women has experienced unwanted sexual behaviour in public. 

In a statement to The Eyeopener, TMU stated that “TMU Security staff are actively patrolling on campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide a safe presence for students and community members.” 

You never know who can come into the buildings

Campus resources like Consent Comes First and the WalkSafe Program are designed to help mitigate sexual harassment and make students feel safe on campus. The WalkSafe Program pairs students with uniformed security members to escort them to locations on campus. 

The service is available to all TMU community members at all times, while Consent Comes First offers free and confidential support to those who have been affected by sexual assault.

“The security walk around, but are they really there? No,” said Gabriele. She explained that she often only sees security guards during the day and would feel more comfortable if there was an increased security presence at night. 

Though the university did not disclose how many officers patrol campus, the school did state that the number of officers are “unchanged based on hours of the day or night.”

The security walk around, but are they really there?

“Guards respond to calls for service in emergency priority sequence,” the school added.

Other women say that while they may not experience catcalling on campus, they feel unsafe walking around the construction zones.

The intersection of Church and Carleton streets is currently the site of streetcar construction. This intersection near the Mattamy Athletic Centre is at the edge of the school’s WalkSafe program, forcing students like fourth-year global management studies student Gillian Baker to take alternative, more dangerous routes to reach their destinations. 

“Sometimes students have to leave campus to get to their classes and walk through areas with no security; that’s when the construction becomes a problem,” said Baker. 

In the same statement to The Eye, the university said, “The well-being of our community members is one of our top priorities…We take any incidents of sexual violence and harassment on our campus very seriously.” 

Gabriele also explained that she feels fortunate: as a fourth-year student, she has more familiarity with the streets around campus. She noted that new students may not know which areas are safest when walking around the school at night. 

“I’ve had three years of living in the city,” she said. “For first-years it’s definitely different.”

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