‘Frustrated and angry’: Students demand better protection as Western University grapples with allegations of sexual violence

LONDON, ONT.—Taped to a door at the Medway-Sydenham Hall residence of Western University hangs a poster that says, “See something. Do Something.”In four words it encapsulates the feelings of unease, and calls to action, that have surfaced at the residence, and on a campus, where students are still reeling over allegations of sexual assault.“Students are feeling frustrated and angry,” said fourth-year student Ziyana Kotadia. “Many of our students don’t feel safe, in residence or on campus. It’s definitely been a difficult few days for our students.”“The fear, understandably, results from not knowing all of the details of what happened,” said Kotadia, also the vice-president for university affairs for the University Students’ Council. What transpired at the residence last weekend remains unclear, but a rash of social media postings allege female students were drugged and sexually assaulted. London police have been investigating three earlier complaints of sexual violence involving four female students — as well as the beating death of first-year student Gabriel Neil — but have not yet received any formal complaints about other alleged incidents.“This past weekend the London police service became aware of reports circulating on social media with relation to allegations that a number of female students residing at Medway-Sydenham Hall at Western University were drugged and sexually assaulted over the weekend. Some reports suggest 30 or more students may have been victimized,”said London police chief Steve Williams at a media conference on Tuesday, as he urged victims to come forward.Police are actively investigating and going door to door at the 613-bed residence known as Med-Syd, speaking with students and seeking any witnesses or victims.Police are also investigating three reports of alleged sexual assault involving four female students last week in other locations on campus, but provided no further information on whether they occurred during frosh events or whether drugs or alcohol were involved. A male student was arrested in connection with one of the cases but has been released from custody, Williams said. No charges have been laid.The allegations of sexual violence surfaced during Orientation Week, which began Sept. 6 and ended Sunday. That same weekend, Neil, 18, was violently assaulted and suffered life-threatening injuries. He died in hospital Sunday evening. Police have arrested Aliyan Ahmed, 21, who is charged with manslaughter. Police say there is no connection between Neil’s death and the alleged sexual assaults.Western University President Alan Shepard, has stated “sexual violence will never be tolerated on our campus.” He called the social media reports “very disturbing” and said “Western is working around the clock to gather the facts and act upon them.”On campus on Tuesday, the atmosphere was tense, with some students whispering about recent Orientation Week events, others expressing fear for their safety and still others voicing frustration over the school’s reputation for parties. Many students refused to talk to reporters, but some who spoke to the Star said they witnessed drunkenness and others behaving inappropriately towards their peers at parties over the course of Frosh week. Some students said they received mixed messages from their sophs — the orientation volunteers — or residence dons: Some saying to go out in groups, while others telling them to avoid off-campus clubs and parties. Paula Gomez, a 19-year-old third-year student, recalled her own Frosh week experiences after arriving from Mexico in 2019, saying she was shocked by what she witnessed. “I was like looking to my sides, and there were a lot of visibly intoxicated, girls, and a lot of guys who were trying to get closer to them and touching them inappropriately.” Luke Nocera, 19, a second-year neuroscience student, said “residence is supposed to be a safe place for all the students and it’s just clearly not that.” “There is this reputation that at Western there’s a lot of predatory behaviour … It’s kind of baked into the culture of the school and they have to change that.” His comments are echoed, in part, by the mother of a first-year Western student. She asked the Star not to identify her, so as to protect her son. “I am so angry,” she told the Star. “I’m fearful for my kid. And I’m fearful for those women.”Her son told her that people he knew had been hanging out at Med-Syd over the weekend, but left when things got out of control with women falling down drunk. The mother shared her frustration in a signed letter emailed to the university’s president and his team, calling on them to “swiftly address the ongoing culture of toxic masculinity at Western.” “Like the parents of Gabriel Neil, we dropped off our 18-year old son a week ago at Western. He was excited, full of optimism and eager for us to get out so he could settle in, meet new friends, and get adjusted to university life,” she wrote. “A week later, he is scared, d

‘Frustrated and angry’: Students demand better protection as Western University grapples with allegations of sexual violence

LONDON, ONT.—Taped to a door at the Medway-Sydenham Hall residence of Western University hangs a poster that says, “See something. Do Something.”

In four words it encapsulates the feelings of unease, and calls to action, that have surfaced at the residence, and on a campus, where students are still reeling over allegations of sexual assault.

“Students are feeling frustrated and angry,” said fourth-year student Ziyana Kotadia. “Many of our students don’t feel safe, in residence or on campus. It’s definitely been a difficult few days for our students.”

“The fear, understandably, results from not knowing all of the details of what happened,” said Kotadia, also the vice-president for university affairs for the University Students’ Council. 

What transpired at the residence last weekend remains unclear, but a rash of social media postings allege female students were drugged and sexually assaulted. London police have been investigating three earlier complaints of sexual violence involving four female students — as well as the beating death of first-year student Gabriel Neil — but have not yet received any formal complaints about other alleged incidents.

“This past weekend the London police service became aware of reports circulating on social media with relation to allegations that a number of female students residing at Medway-Sydenham Hall at Western University were drugged and sexually assaulted over the weekend. Some reports suggest 30 or more students may have been victimized,”said London police chief Steve Williams at a media conference on Tuesday, as he urged victims to come forward.

Police are actively investigating and going door to door at the 613-bed residence known as Med-Syd, speaking with students and seeking any witnesses or victims.

Police are also investigating three reports of alleged sexual assault involving four female students last week in other locations on campus, but provided no further information on whether they occurred during frosh events or whether drugs or alcohol were involved. A male student was arrested in connection with one of the cases but has been released from custody, Williams said. No charges have been laid.

The allegations of sexual violence surfaced during Orientation Week, which began Sept. 6 and ended Sunday. That same weekend, Neil, 18, was violently assaulted and suffered life-threatening injuries. He died in hospital Sunday evening. Police have arrested Aliyan Ahmed, 21, who is charged with manslaughter. Police say there is no connection between Neil’s death and the alleged sexual assaults.

Western University President Alan Shepard, has stated “sexual violence will never be tolerated on our campus.” He called the social media reports “very disturbing” and said “Western is working around the clock to gather the facts and act upon them.”

On campus on Tuesday, the atmosphere was tense, with some students whispering about recent Orientation Week events, others expressing fear for their safety and still others voicing frustration over the school’s reputation for parties. 

Many students refused to talk to reporters, but some who spoke to the Star said they witnessed drunkenness and others behaving inappropriately towards their peers at parties over the course of Frosh week. Some students said they received mixed messages from their sophs — the orientation volunteers — or residence dons: Some saying to go out in groups, while others telling them to avoid off-campus clubs and parties. 

Paula Gomez, a 19-year-old third-year student, recalled her own Frosh week experiences after arriving from Mexico in 2019, saying she was shocked by what she witnessed. 

“I was like looking to my sides, and there were a lot of visibly intoxicated, girls, and a lot of guys who were trying to get closer to them and touching them inappropriately.” 

Luke Nocera, 19, a second-year neuroscience student, said “residence is supposed to be a safe place for all the students and it’s just clearly not that.” 

“There is this reputation that at Western there’s a lot of predatory behaviour … It’s kind of baked into the culture of the school and they have to change that.” 

His comments are echoed, in part, by the mother of a first-year Western student. She asked the Star not to identify her, so as to protect her son. 

“I am so angry,” she told the Star. “I’m fearful for my kid. And I’m fearful for those women.”

Her son told her that people he knew had been hanging out at Med-Syd over the weekend, but left when things got out of control with women falling down drunk. 

The mother shared her frustration in a signed letter emailed to the university’s president and his team, calling on them to “swiftly address the ongoing culture of toxic masculinity at Western.” 

“Like the parents of Gabriel Neil, we dropped off our 18-year old son a week ago at Western. He was excited, full of optimism and eager for us to get out so he could settle in, meet new friends, and get adjusted to university life,” she wrote. “A week later, he is scared, disappointed and based on the school’s handling so far of the events last week, resigned to believing he is alone and that this behaviour is tolerated by Western’s leadership.” 

At the media conference Tuesday, the university president said the safety of students is a priority.

“We are calling those who may have experienced this to help us get information in order to investigate this,” said Shepard. He also stressed that students and survivors of sexual assault can access supports at the university. Western has increased security in its residences and has on-site confidential counselling and specialized gender-based violence and survivor support professionals available.

Some are demanding more action. On Tuesday, a petition launched on change.org was circulated by students calling on the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities to conduct a “full formal investigation into Western University.”

In response, Minister Jill Dunlop said the Ontario government “strongly condemns all forms of violence” and “no one should have to worry about sexual violence on or off campus.” She said her office has been working to create regulatory changes that will strengthen college and university sexual violence policies. Updated policies will be announced in the coming weeks.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford also weighed in on Twitter, saying “As the father of four young women, I am beyond disgusted to hear about the allegations of sexual assault that took place at Western University last week. All victims of sexual violence deserve justice. All students should feel safe on campus.” 

Anova, a gender-based shelter in London, said it is setting up a safe space at Western to support students on campus. Counsellors will be on campus Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night to provide drop-in support to students.

After the allegations of sexual violence surfaced, third-year student Hayden Van Neck joined about 20 others in starting an Instagram page aimed at organizing a student walkout on Friday to address their concerns. 

“There needs to be some serious institutional change to actually prevent things like this happening in the future,” Van Neck said of the allegations of sexual violence. “We want protection for our students. The programs in place right now are mostly for aftercare, so we’re hoping for prevention ... and essentially trying to understand the underlying issues within the institution like misogyny that lead to sexual assault and gender-based violence.” 

Along with the call to action and plans for a walkout, they’re calling for better training for sophs and dons as well as the mandatory distribution of educational material on gender-based and sexual violence. They would also like the university to clarify sexual assault reporting procedures. 

Gomez, who is also helping to organize the walkout, said she hopes to take their fight “across many schools.” 

“It’s not just about Western University,” she said, adding it’s about rape culture on university campuses. 

Van Neck said they are prioritizing finding and supporting the survivors of any abuse. “This is just the start.”

With files from Nadine Yousif and The Canadian Press

Isabel Teotonio is a Toronto-based reporter covering education for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @Izzy74

Alyshah Hasham is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and court for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @alysanmati

Jenna Moon is a breaking news reporter for the Star and is based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @_jennamoon

Danica Samuel is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Reach her via email: dsamuel@thestar.ca or follow her on Twitter: @danicasamuel

Source : Toronto Star More   

What's Your Reaction?

like
0
dislike
0
love
0
funny
0
angry
0
sad
0
wow
0

Next Article

‘Comedy giant’ Norm Macdonald, known for his dry wit and compassion, dies at 61

The owner of Yuk Yuk’s, where Norm Macdonald got his start, says the late comedian had three qualities that made him successful at his craft.“He was smart, honest and cutting. Three great things you want to see in a comedian,” Mark Breslin, CEO and founder of the Yuk Yuk’s standup comedy clubs said Tuesday, recalling the career of Canadian Norm Macdonald, a funnyman who died after nine years with cancer. He was 61. His family said Norm died peacefully in hospital in Pasadena, Calif., from acute leukemia on Tuesday, an illness he was very private about.“He was a friend too. We were pals. I lost a pal today,” Breslin said of Macdonald’s passing.The former “Saturday Night Live” cast member, actor and voice-over personality, who was known for his deadpan style where he often milked a joke, even when no one else was laughing, was born in Quebec City.His niece, Andrea Macdonald, a team editor on the Star’s production desk, remembers the man she fondly called “Uncle Norm.”Once when she was a youngster, around 4 or 5 years old, visiting him in Toronto in the 1980s, (she would stay here overnight while travelling from London Ont. to the family farm in Ottawa) he took her to see the movie “The NeverEnding Story.” One scene frightened her and she had to run out of the theatre.“He was there consoling me, but also kinda laughed with me,” she says, choking up recalling the moment. “He liked to tease me in a friendly way.”She remembers him as the “fun” uncle.“He was a big part of my life growing up. He was around a lot,” his niece says.Norm grew up with his older brother Neil, a veteran CBC television journalist, and his youngest brother Leslie. The brothers first lived at the Camp Valcartier Canadian Forces army base in Quebec City, where their father was a principal and mother a teacher. They spent about 17 years there.According to family lore, Norm and his brothers would crack each other up imitating the locals in the area.“That’s where he got his chops for imitating people,” his niece says.The family had a farm in the Ottawa Valley area and Norm would sometimes get a stern look from his father whenever Norm imitated visitors to the property.“Grandpa apparently didn’t appreciate that,” Macdonald’s niece says chuckling.As his success as an entertainer later blossomed, the family basked in the joy with the comedian. Macdonald arranged for his niece to be in the front row of the studio for the season premiere of “Saturday Night Live” in 1995.“He was such a big part of everyone’s life. Everyone was very proud of him,” his niece says.“He was a very private but emotional person. He always did his best to take care of all of us,” she went on to say.Macdonald got his big break after working the open mic comedy scene in Ottawa and Toronto then later heading to Los Angeles and taking off in the U.S. — his highlight as one of the cast members on “SNL” in the mid to late 1990s, including a period on the show where he hosted the popular Weekend Update segment, a satiric take on the weekly news.He was known for killer impressions, including a gum-chomping Burt Reynolds and former Republican presidential nominee and U.S. senator Bob Dole.Comics both in the U.S. and Canada mourned Macdonald’s passing on social media and elsewhere.Well-known Canadian actor and comedian Seth Rogan said: “I was a huge fan of Norm Macdonald and I essentially ripped off his delivery when I first started acting. I would stay up specifically to watch him on talk shows. He was the funniest guest of all time. We lost a comedy giant today. One of the all time greats. RIP.”Breslin recalls the days when Macdonald first started out doing off the wall bits at Yuk Yuk’s in Ottawa and Toronto as a shy amateur in the mid to late 1980s.“Most comedians suck when they first start out, and stink for a while before they get good. Norm shows up for amateur night in Ottawa and he’s absolutely fantastic in five minutes. My manager there told me Norm thought he bombed. (The manager) ran after him and told him, ‘You gotta come back.’ He came back the next night and killed again,” Breslin recalls.In fact, Macdonald was so good, he was pulled off the amateur roster in Ottawa in three weeks, which Breslin believes is a record for his club.“When he came to Toronto (as a headliner) I expected someone great, and I got it,” Breslin says. Macdonald spent about two or three years honing his routine in Toronto’s Yuk Yuk’s on Richmond St., Breslin says.Deborah Knight, Macdonald’s publicist in Toronto at this time, recalls his dry wit.“He said ‘oh, I have to perform for you as well?’ He was so funny. It was a deadpan way of thinking of a publicist,” she recalls. “He had observational humour that cracked you up because he said it so genuinely. He had quick, off-the-cuff remarks that made you feel at ease even when he was poking fun at you,” Knight said, recalling a client who was “a lot of fun to work with.”“He was humble and a riot to be around. He always had a quip to crack you up,” Knigh

‘Comedy giant’ Norm Macdonald, known for his dry wit and compassion, dies at 61

The owner of Yuk Yuk’s, where Norm Macdonald got his start, says the late comedian had three qualities that made him successful at his craft.

“He was smart, honest and cutting. Three great things you want to see in a comedian,” Mark Breslin, CEO and founder of the Yuk Yuk’s standup comedy clubs said Tuesday, recalling the career of Canadian Norm Macdonald, a funnyman who died after nine years with cancer.

He was 61. His family said Norm died peacefully in hospital in Pasadena, Calif., from acute leukemia on Tuesday, an illness he was very private about.

“He was a friend too. We were pals. I lost a pal today,” Breslin said of Macdonald’s passing.

The former “Saturday Night Live” cast member, actor and voice-over personality, who was known for his deadpan style where he often milked a joke, even when no one else was laughing, was born in Quebec City.

His niece, Andrea Macdonald, a team editor on the Star’s production desk, remembers the man she fondly called “Uncle Norm.”

Once when she was a youngster, around 4 or 5 years old, visiting him in Toronto in the 1980s, (she would stay here overnight while travelling from London Ont. to the family farm in Ottawa) he took her to see the movie “The NeverEnding Story.” One scene frightened her and she had to run out of the theatre.

“He was there consoling me, but also kinda laughed with me,” she says, choking up recalling the moment. “He liked to tease me in a friendly way.”

She remembers him as the “fun” uncle.

“He was a big part of my life growing up. He was around a lot,” his niece says.

Norm grew up with his older brother Neil, a veteran CBC television journalist, and his youngest brother Leslie. The brothers first lived at the Camp Valcartier Canadian Forces army base in Quebec City, where their father was a principal and mother a teacher. They spent about 17 years there.

According to family lore, Norm and his brothers would crack each other up imitating the locals in the area.

“That’s where he got his chops for imitating people,” his niece says.

The family had a farm in the Ottawa Valley area and Norm would sometimes get a stern look from his father whenever Norm imitated visitors to the property.

“Grandpa apparently didn’t appreciate that,” Macdonald’s niece says chuckling.

As his success as an entertainer later blossomed, the family basked in the joy with the comedian. Macdonald arranged for his niece to be in the front row of the studio for the season premiere of “Saturday Night Live” in 1995.

“He was such a big part of everyone’s life. Everyone was very proud of him,” his niece says.

“He was a very private but emotional person. He always did his best to take care of all of us,” she went on to say.

Macdonald got his big break after working the open mic comedy scene in Ottawa and Toronto then later heading to Los Angeles and taking off in the U.S. — his highlight as one of the cast members on “SNL” in the mid to late 1990s, including a period on the show where he hosted the popular Weekend Update segment, a satiric take on the weekly news.

He was known for killer impressions, including a gum-chomping Burt Reynolds and former Republican presidential nominee and U.S. senator Bob Dole.

Comics both in the U.S. and Canada mourned Macdonald’s passing on social media and elsewhere.

Well-known Canadian actor and comedian Seth Rogan said: “I was a huge fan of Norm Macdonald and I essentially ripped off his delivery when I first started acting. I would stay up specifically to watch him on talk shows. He was the funniest guest of all time. We lost a comedy giant today. One of the all time greats. RIP.”

Breslin recalls the days when Macdonald first started out doing off the wall bits at Yuk Yuk’s in Ottawa and Toronto as a shy amateur in the mid to late 1980s.

“Most comedians suck when they first start out, and stink for a while before they get good. Norm shows up for amateur night in Ottawa and he’s absolutely fantastic in five minutes. My manager there told me Norm thought he bombed. (The manager) ran after him and told him, ‘You gotta come back.’ He came back the next night and killed again,” Breslin recalls.

In fact, Macdonald was so good, he was pulled off the amateur roster in Ottawa in three weeks, which Breslin believes is a record for his club.

“When he came to Toronto (as a headliner) I expected someone great, and I got it,” Breslin says. Macdonald spent about two or three years honing his routine in Toronto’s Yuk Yuk’s on Richmond St., Breslin says.

Deborah Knight, Macdonald’s publicist in Toronto at this time, recalls his dry wit.

“He said ‘oh, I have to perform for you as well?’ He was so funny. It was a deadpan way of thinking of a publicist,” she recalls.

“He had observational humour that cracked you up because he said it so genuinely. He had quick, off-the-cuff remarks that made you feel at ease even when he was poking fun at you,” Knight said, recalling a client who was “a lot of fun to work with.”

“He was humble and a riot to be around. He always had a quip to crack you up,” Knight recalls.

Breslin remembers spending time with Macdonald in Aspen, Colo. around the time of the Sept. 11 attacks. Macdonald was appeared at a comedy festival in the city.

“He did as brilliant a set as I’ve ever seen. His entire 45 minutes was on one theme — fear. Fear of politics, fears concerning his body and his mortality,” Breslin says, recalling the edgy bit.

During his stint on Weekend Update, Macdonald dropped lines that were very cutting and close to the line. After O.J. Simpson’s acquittal, Macdonald famously said, “Well it’s official. Murder is legal in the state of California.”

A short time later he lost his Weekend Update gig and was let go from “SNL” entirely. Some blame NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer, who was friendly with O.J. Simpson, for Macdonald’s fate on the show.

“What you want from a comic is honesty because you can’t get that from anyone else,” Breslin says of the controversy.

Perhaps it’s a mark of irony that one of Macdonald’s most famous standup routines was about his uncle’s cancer treatment, and a sign of his acerbic wit that he shredded the cliche of cancer as a battle, or the notion of “losing” to the disease.

Todd Van Allen, a standup comic and voice actor in Ottawa, was around for Macdonald’s early open mic days. Then, as always, Macdonald’s material was “dry, witty, well thought-out” and often silly, Van Allen says.

“His delivery, his word choice. It was always succinct and in his own style. We’re never going to hear anyone like that again, which makes his passing that much sadder.”

Source : Toronto Star More   

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.