We petition for a return to baseline on-campus service to survivors of sexual violence and continued education around sexual violence through workshops and Sexual Assault Awareness Week.
The University of Alberta Sexual Assault Centre (UASAC) has provided drop-in and appointment-based services to survivors of sexual violence and concerned individuals, as well as educational workshops about topics like consent and supporting survivors. A combined total of over 100 drop-ins and online text-and-chats (on campus and for the wider Alberta community) were served by the UASAC between September and November 2023 (UASAC Crisis Intervention Meeting Minutes, November 2023), which amounts to an average of over one person each day that the Centre is open. Some clients come to the UASAC more than once, such as after triggering episodes. The UASAC workshops that were planned through Eventbrite (eventbrite.ca/o/university-of-alberta-sexual-assau...) were held around once weekly in September and October 2023. The University of Alberta also holds a Sexual Assault Awareness Week biannually (ualberta.ca/current-students/sexual-assault-centre...), which can be seen as an acknowledgment of how widespread rape culture is and the need for it to be routinely addressed.
Since late November 2023, the space in which the UASAC operates has been made unavailable for drop-ins, and volunteer-led educational presentations have been put on hold, with no apparent date of return to regular operations. As of January 23, 2024, all in-person supports on campus are by appointment, per the UASAC website. This is a disservice to the university community, including those who regularly seek help from the UASAC and those who may do so in the future. Although the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton is filling the gap in text-and-chat support, it would be naive to assume that the need for drop-in services on campus has suddenly stopped since November 2023. There are no upcoming workshops on the UASAC Eventbrite page. President Flanagan has noted the "critical nature of the centre's work" (ualberta.ca/news/news-releases-and-statements/stat...) at the same time that the university is preventing this critical work from being done.
We petition for the following:
a) Resume regular UASAC operations immediately. If this cannot be done at this time, ensure that the baseline level of service is available on campus to survivors and concerned individuals, including an on-campus drop-in alternative.
b) Resume UASAC educational workshops by Feb. 26, 2024, when classes resume after Reading Week.
c) Ensure that Sexual Assault Awareness Week occurs this semester, as it has in previous semesters. (Last year's was held in February (ualberta.ca/current-students/sexual-assault-centre....)) Regardless of disruptions to the UASAC itself, rape culture continues, and so must addressing it on campus.
President William Flanagan
Vice-Presidents Verna Yiu, Andrew Sharman, Todd Gilchrist, Aminah Robinson Fayek, Elan MacDonald
Vice-Provost and Dean of Students Ravina Sanghera
Associate Vice-President, Human Resources, Health, Safety and Environment Marcie Chisholm
Vice-President Academic, Faculty Relations Michelle Strong
Sexual Violence Response Coordinator Deb Eerkes
The University of Alberta's Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Policy recognizes that the university has a responsibility to "raise awareness of consent, gender inclusivity, SGBV [sexual and gender-based violence] prevention, and appropriate responses to disclosures of SGBV" (p. 5), which we argue would include educational activities like workshops and Sexual Assault Awareness Week. We are sending this petition to you because
a) you are listed in the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Policy among the "senior leaders [who] exercise administrative responsibility to implement this policy and the related procedures within [your] respective areas of responsibility, including by creating, supporting and maintaining a learning environment free from SGBV that promotes a culture of consent and inclusivity" (p. 6), and/or
b) you are listed as a person to contact in this "perceived deficit in University response" at the webpage "Options, Resources + Services for Those Who Have Been Subjected to Sexual Violence" (ualberta.ca/provost/policies-and-procedures/sexual....)