The safety of St. F.X. students “is paramount for us,” according to President Kent MacDonald.
He offered that comment in a year-end conversation with the Casket, in discussing charges against three students related to alleged sexual assaults.
“With respect to the various allegations, I can simply say that they are troubling for an institution – like St. F.X. – that, I know, has a community that cares deeply about one another,” MacDonald said.
“We have made it absolutely clear that St. F.X. will have zero tolerance for any behaviour, any violence – including sexual violence – on our campus, or associated with our campus.”
Late in 2017, over a three-week span in November, the allegations came to light.
X-Men football defensive back Jonah Williams, 19, has been charged with three counts of sexual assault against two different women and defensive back Tyler Ball, 18, was charged with a single count of sexual assault.
As for the third incident, the Antigonish RCMP has indicated it occurred in a private residence off campus, sometime in the fall, and charges were pending.
“I am thankful that we have a community that has, for several years, been deeply committed to eradicating sexual violence on the campus,” MacDonald said.
“And, through their efforts, we have a sexual violence policy in place – well before most institutions in the country.
“We have a completely renewed orientation, with information provided to all students coming on to campus,” he added.
St. F.X.’s Sexual Violence Policy, which addresses sexualized violence, how the university will handle and prevent it, along with education measures, was implemented in November 2016.
MacDonald said hundreds of St. F.X. students have taken ‘bringing in the bystander’ training.
He also noted one of his President’s Colloquiums focussed on sexualized violence.
“We have shown, at least on two occasions, the documentary The Hunting Ground, and had good conversations about that,” MacDonald said.
He added “we are not going to pretend that this behaviour doesn’t take place on the campus or in our community.
“We are no different than other communities and the only thing that we will control is remaining committed to eradicating it,” MacDonald said.
Nevertheless, he conceded, “we have more work to do.”
MacDonald said he is “thankful for the response that I have seen on campus.”
That ‘response’ includes We Stand Together – a social media-based campaign spearheaded by X-Women soccer players Sarah Bruce and Emma Kuzmyk – which has encouraged students and community members to change their Facebook profile picture to a pink emblem, which has the school’s famous ‘X’ in the centre.
A campaign video features a poem by Kuzmyk that talks about the trauma – amongst other things – sexual assault creates for a woman.
“Our students remain absolutely inspirational, in terms of how they have reacted to this,” MacDonald said.
He stressed the need for “active participation” from all members of the community.
“I remain thankful that, in my view, St. F.X. is a place where our faculty, our staff and our students are saying ‘no more’ to this,” MacDonald said.
“Again, we are going to continue to say that until this is completely eradicated from our campus.”