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‘I had to do something’: Western University students plan walkout amid sexual assault allegations

London, Ont. –

Western University students plan to leave classes on Friday while in London, Ont. police are investigating allegations of sexual assault at a freshman residence.

“I think I can speak for everyone on campus when we were pretty shocked and no one was prepared for that kind of scale,” says Hayden Van Neck, third year psychology and co-student. -organizer of the clutch.

Students walk away from unconfirmed reports of up to 30 suspected drug-related sexual assaults, three confirmed reports of sexual violence and the death of freshman Gabriel Neil.

“Disturbing”, “disturbing” and disgusting ”are just a few of the adjectives students use to describe what happened, and what would have happened, at school this week.

“The emotions were running high and I felt I had to do something,” says Van Neck.

She and about 20 other students organized the walkout, which will see several survivors of sexual assault talking to students who are scheduled to leave their classes at noon on Friday.

This will involve meeting at UC Hill, walking around a campus route, and then returning to the hill for speeches.

“We just hope to bring everyone together, support our survivors and support the survivors who have not been involved in this incident but previous incidents,” Van Neck said.

The group planning the walkout hopes to shift Western’s focus from managing the consequences to a more preventative approach.

“Some of the things we are asking for are mandatory training … for all students, faculty and staff who walk this campus,” says Danica Facca, a graduate student who has joined the organizing team.

“In addition, we are looking to see what types of mechanisms the university can put in place for orientation week. How can we restructure it to implement more security measures? Or how can we re-envision how we can bring the early years on campus together to continue building community, but at least try to mitigate some of the spaces where this activity can take place on or off campus, ”says- she. “When we talk about sexual gender-based violence, especially on college campuses, the university itself is just one part of a much larger socio-cultural element.”

Co-organizers of Friday’s walkout at Western University, left to right, Hayden Van Neck, Danica Facca and Emily Poirier in London, Ont. On Wednesday, September 15, 2021 (Bret Lale / CTV News)

Students from all over the country talk about what happened and what would have happened in London.

A petition started on by a McMaster University freshman had more than 5,000 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon. Joshua Bell calls on the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities to conduct a full investigation into Western University.

“It’s not just Western students who are concerned about what happened,” says Bell, a social science student who has a number of friends who hang out with Western.

“It is students across the province who are affected. They want action taken to prevent another incident like this from happening at Western, but also at any other university in Ontario.

Over the past few days, many students have told CTV News London they don’t feel safe on campus.

“A lot of students of all genders are feeling very vulnerable right now,” says Emily Poirier, co-organizer of the walkout.

“It’s a great opportunity for community healing, and I think it’s a great way to regain power. I think having this organization shows us that there are so many people on campus who are on campus. don’t agree with that, and who are willing to stand up against sexual violence and violence on campus. I think it will be really powerful for students and faculty to start the healing process. “

Officials at Western University and the London Police Department have confirmed that four women have filed formal complaints of being sexually assaulted on campus in recent days.

Police are also investigating allegations made on social media of mass drugs and sexual assault at the Medway-Sydenham Hall residence on campus during Orientation Week.

The force noted, however, that no one had made a formal complaint regarding the Medway-Syndenham Hall allegations, which were made on social media.

Western did not immediately respond to the walkout or the group’s demands, but said it took the recent allegations seriously. He also said he offers a wide variety of supports to students.

According to Student Voices on Sexual Violence, a 2018 survey of post-secondary students across the province, one in three Western students surveyed said they had been sexually assaulted in the previous 12 months. Over 8,000 Western students responded to the survey.

—With files from The Canadian Press

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