In light of disturbing allegations of sexual violence and the unrelated, devastating death of a first-year student over the weekend, President Alan Shepard shared this message with the campus community on Sept. 13.
Western community members:
I know many of you will have heard social media reports of events that took place this past weekend. These are very disturbing reports and Western is working around the clock to gather the facts and act upon them.
Let me be very clear: Sexual violence will never be tolerated on our campus.
Given the seriousness of the allegations on social media, London Police Service (LPS) has opened an investigation and Western will work closely with them. This joint activity will begin immediately.
At this time, Western and LPS have received very little information related to the social media reports, and we’re asking anyone with more details to please come forward.
Unconnected to what we’re seeing on social media, Western has received four formal complaints of sexual violence from students over the past week. We have taken swift and strong action in these cases, including facilitating arrest and removing students from residence while investigations are ongoing. These cases do not appear to be connected to each other.
As the facts continue to unfold, we are working to support students and ensure they feel safe. We have increased security in residence and have on-site confidential counselling and specialized gender-based violence and survivor support professionals available for students.
If you or someone you know has been impacted by sexual violence, we have survivor-focused supports in place, including a dedicated gender-based violence and survivor support case manager. Survivors have support options including disclosure, filing a complaint and/or requesting support. In emergency situations, Western’s Special Constable Service and St. Joseph’s Health Care Regional Sexual Assault Program are available 24/7.
Students in residence can also contact their residence don, front desk, and residence life coordinator for assistance with understanding their options, and have access to free, confidential services with the residence counselling and student support team.
While we remain focused on being as responsive as possible to incidents of sexual violence, we are equally committed to being proactive in providing extensive sexual violence education and prevention programming to our students.
Combatting gender-based and sexual violence requires immediate and collective action from across our campus community. But what’s most important right now is that you know Western is here to support you. Please reach out to any of the resources shared here – and if you have any information that can give us a fuller picture of the weekend’s events, we want to hear from you.
I cannot close out without acknowledging the death of one of our students this weekend – first-year student Gabriel Neil. We are devastated by this senseless loss and are heartbroken for his family, friends and all who knew him.
While this terrible tragedy is unconnected to the other incidents this weekend, I know it has resulted in heightened concern for safety on campus. Please be assured this case is being thoroughly investigated by LPS, and a suspect from the London community is in custody.
We are all experiencing a difficult start to the school year – and I am certain no one feels this more deeply than our students. We are here for you.