In response to concerns about student safety and sexual violence on campus, Western University is launching a new student safety action plan. The action plan will increase safety and security on campus by introducing new security measures, including hiring new special constables, enhancing security patrols, and implementing mandatory in-person sexual violence awareness and prevention training for all students in residence.
The university is also striking a Task Force on Sexual Violence and Student Safety to better understand and eradicate sexual violence and create a campus culture where these unacceptable actions are prevented.
“This has been a tremendously difficult time for our students and the entire Western community. We clearly have a culture problem that we need to address. We let our students and their families down,” said President Alan Shepard.
“The measures announced today are the first step in a journey to deeply examine the prevailing culture on our campus and identify what more we can do to ensure the safety and security of every member of our community.”
More support and security for students
The student safety action plan includes the following immediate steps:
- Requiring all students in residence to take mandatory in-person training on sexual violence, consent and personal safety starting on Sept. 20, with a goal of making this mandatory for all students.
- Re-establishing faculty sophs’ ability to access and support first-year students in residences. Sophs provide essential supports to students and this access had been suspended due to COVID-19 visitor protocols.
- Hiring up to 100 new safety ambassadors as part of a new program to support students in residence. This will be a mix of upper-year undergraduates and graduate students to bolster support in Western’s residences through night shifts that run until the early morning.
- Enhancing security patrols on campus by adding additional special constable patrols from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.
- Hiring four new special constables, in addition to the two new positions already added this year, which will increase the number of special constables on campus by 33 per cent. Special constables have the authority of police while on campus including the powers of arrest.
This is in addition to the following measures that have already been taken in recent months:
- Hiring 15 new security guards, increasing the number by four times.
- Re-activating the Foot Patrol program where peers escort students on campus at their request. This program had been paused due to COVID-19.
- Upgrading and increasing blue light phones, building alarms, lighting, security card access system and security cameras on campus.
- Making additional counseling available for students.
Mandatory training led by research experts
All Western students in residence will be required to attend in-person sexual violence prevention training, which is set to begin Sept. 20th – with the goal of making this mandatory for all students. Additional training will be developed for faculty and staff.
Students will receive training in consent, personal safety, bystander training, gender-based violence and sexual assault.
Developed in consultation with Western’s Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children (CREVAWC), the training will roll out to all 5,300 students living in Western’s 10 residences.
CREVAWC has a long history of partnering with Western Housing to provide information about sexual violence to residence dons and residence staff.
Task force will have significant student involvement and input
The mandate of the new Task Force on Sexual Violence and Student Safety will be developed in consultation with Western’s student leaders, including the University Students’ Council and the Society of Graduate Students.
Students, staff, faculty, alumni and community partners will have seats at the table. The Task Force will take a comprehensive look at student safety, including gender-based and sexual violence, as well as on-campus activities and programming.
More details about the task force, training modules and other safety measures will be announced in the coming days.
“We have a lot of work to do as a community,” said Shepard. “I’ve spoken with students who are hurting, and we are here to listen, and to collaborate with them to find a better way forward.”
Shepard said these new actions are only the beginning. “Western is taking every necessary measure to ensure our students feel safe, and that all students – present and future – have a community they can trust.”
Western offers a range of survivor-focused supports, including a dedicated gender-based violence and survivor support case manager. Survivors have support options, including making a 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. Anova (formerly, Sexual Assault Centre of London) also operates 24/7 support and crisis line at 519-642-3000.