U of O students blast 'rape culture' response

Faced with allegations of sexual harassment and violence against women, the University of Ottawa is...

Faced with allegations of sexual harassment and violence against women, the University of Ottawa is setting up a task force on respect and equality, president Allan Rock said at a press conference in Ottawa on March 6, 2014. (Tony Caldwell/QMI Agency)

Aedan Helmer, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:05 AM ET

OTTAWA -- University of Ottawa student leaders were not impressed with their school's response to shocking incidents of "rape culture" on campus, so they've decided to launch a task force of their own.

University president Allan Rock pledged swift action last week as the school went into full damage control mode following two high profile incidents, one involving sexually aggressive comments directed at the student union president, and the other an alleged gang sexual assault by the members of the Gee-Gees hockey team.

Seamus Wolfe of the graduate students' association said the university response amounted to a knee-jerk reaction to a "PR nightmare," while the students' own Independent Initiative Against Rape Culture seeks to affect real change.

"We need to actually engage in a widespread community discussion that allows for an opportunity for all students and staff to engage in the issue," said Wolfe. "We're not going to be able to reach the root causes by writing up some research report and then shelving it somewhere."

Wolfe said he and his peers were bewildered by the administration's response, given that student input was limited to a "courtesy call" to the Student Federation.

And contrary to the rather vague strategies outlined by the administration last week, the student initiative will seek to engage all members of the university community, as well as the community at large.


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