ANTIGONISH, NS - Students are raising their voices when it comes to dealing with sexual violence on the St. F.X. campus in Antigonish.
“It has been a very interesting time here on campus,” St. F.X. Students’ Union President Rebecca Mesay said during an Oct. 17 interview in her Bloomfield Centre office.
“There’s always going to be a range of emotions; sadness, fear and disappointment. But, I think, what I have witnessed most heavily is an underlying want to see change happen.
“Our students have indicated to us that they are willing to make moves, in terms of getting an objective that they would be happy with, and they are always looking at safety and security for themselves and for one another,” she added.
The students’ union released a list of seven recommendations for St. F.X. administration Oct. 10.
“Relating to what needs to take place on our campus, in order to ensure situations like the one that was described early last week no longer occur,” Mesay said.
The situation she refers to made national news in early October, when The Canadian Press reported a student found responsible for an alleged sexual assault last fall was back on campus, pending an appeal.
The student who brought the charge was not informed by school administration that he was back at the university. After learning of the situation, she withdrew from St. F.X. and returned home.
The man – still facing criminal charges – has left St. F.X, which President Kent MacDonald announced in an Oct. 12 letter to the campus community on the St. F.X. website.
Mesay outlined the recommendations the students’ union has made, which includes forming a working group.
“That was, actually, a previous working group that was formed internal to the executive, but now has been opened for students, at large, and admin and faculty, and anyone that would like to be part of that,” she explained.
“That has been moving along nicely, in terms of establishing a framework and strategies as to what we would like to see take place in the coming days and weeks, and beyond that point.”
They have also called for the review and amendment of the university’s sexual violence policy.
“We are setting up the meetings to begin the preliminary review and we have received a lot of student input, in terms of what they would like to see from the policy moving forward, so that’s been very helpful,” she said.
There have also been plans made for a forum to gather “an understanding [of] what the student perspective is on the issue”
“We have a very good idea, but the more input we can get, from more people, the better it will be for us,” Mesay added.
She noted the students’ union has received approval from St. F.X. administration to increase the number of students, at-large, on the sexual violence prevention policy committee.
Mesay said students’ union vice president academic Tiffany MacLellan has been working with the chair of the St. F.X. senate appeals’ committee on the amendment of the community code of conduct and the appeals process.
“I think, what has been pretty incredible to see is, the way that the students have been banding together – bringing forward recommendations, offering advocacy, offering their voices; being very visible, in terms of demonstrating [the need for change],” she said.
Mesay added she is “very proud of the student body.”
“For the students’ union, our priority is always the safety and security of our students – their well-being, upholding their voice, advocating to them on behalf of the administration, as well as to the provincial and federal governments,” she said.