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Violence on Campus

Iain Hill (1L)

With the coming of September, cold weather, and the start of fall semester came some rather unsavoury news. For the first time, the University of Alberta released a report (quietly tucked away in their annual Student Conduct & Accountability Statistical Report) documenting the numbers of recorded incidents of sexual assault or sexual harassment (estimated to be just a fraction of the actual number of incidents). The numbers are shocking, if not entirely surprising; one student was reportedly responsible for roughly 30 incidents in the 2015-2016 school year. Unsurprisingly, much remains to be done in order to effectively combat this. In January 2016, a report was released reviewing the University of Alberta’s response to sexual assault with a long host of recommendations for the school. In response, the University implemented a new Sexual Violence Policy in June 2017. If this were not enough, the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity came under investigation in September for a possible hazing incident that left a University of Alberta student in the hospital with serious head injuries. The fraternity in question has already courted infamy in the past with a 2011 investigation into hazing activities, which resulted in a five year ban (lifted after three years).

Although dealing with different kinds of violence, both pieces of news suggest that student-on-student violence remains an important issue on campus. The University has come under scrutiny in the past for not doing enough to actively police violence on campus, and there is still a lack of a comprehensive strategy for dealing with much of the violence. On one hand, the University is to be commended for finally releasing the actual numbers of claims, but on the other, these numbers were published in a general “student conduct” package with minimal attention provided. Likewise, in all of the reports and the University’s plans for dealing with sexual assault (and harassment), there are no mentions of the actual figures, giving very little sense of the challenges the institution still has to face. A cynical individual may look at this separation of information as a way to prop up the University’s efforts while minimizing and diminishing their shortcomings. Such a cynical approach may not be unreasonable given that the University, while temporarily banning Delta Kappa Epsilon, refused to penalize individual students or alumni. With yet another incident less than ten years after their last major controversy, a more reserved or skeptical attitude to the University’s response may not be unwarranted.

Editor’s Note: If you ever feel unsafe on campus, you can contact University of Alberta Protective Services at 780-492-5050, 24 hours a day. If it is an emergency, call 911.