universities to conduct a campus safety audit. It has adopted a safety app,
downloaded by more than 12,000 users so far, that provides a direct-dial
option for campus security, 911, the sexual assault support line and other
services. It introduced a certification and training program for campus
security officers and it is developing a bystander program.
The changes followed a harrowing event that took place at York
during frosh week seven years ago. Early one September morning, two
men, former York students, went into a residence building and walked
from floor to floor, entering several unlocked rooms. Daniel Katsnelson
raped a 17-year-old first-year student. Then he took photos with his cell
phone while Justin Connort sexually assaulted her. Mr. Katsnelson raped
a second woman that night while Mr. Connort watched.
“September 7, 2007 has changed my life forever,” said one of the
women in a victim-impact statement filed at the sentence hearing for Mr.
Katsnelson in 2010. She was still suffering from panic and anxiety at-
tacks, nightmares and flashbacks two-and-a-half years after the incident,
she told the court. “I’m still afraid of the dark. I am still haunted by what
The vulnerability of the young women who were attacked that night
was not unique, the judge wrote in his ruling. “It is shared by thousands
of 17- and 18-year-olds who leave home every year to attend colleges and
universities across the country. … It is very much in the public interest
that college and university campuses be places of safety and that they be
perceived to be places of safety.” He sentenced Mr. Katsnelson to eight
years in prison.
York isn’t the only university taking action after frightening or dis-
• The University of British Columbia set up a task force following six as-
saults that took place on its campus between April and October last year.
It recently announced that it will improve campus lighting, increase
bike patrols and introduce other safety measures. The assailant, thought
to be someone unknown to the victims, still hasn’t been found.
•McGill University held a forum about informed consent in February
and is developing a sexual assault policy after widespread student crit-
icism of McGill’s handling of an alleged sexual assault of a Concordia
University student involving three McGill football players in 2011. The
men were charged and the case is before the courts. The forum in Febru-
ary aimed to debunk myths about consent and address ways that McGill
and Montreal can create a safer space for discussions on topics like con-
sent, rape culture and sexual assault.
•At St. Francis Xavier University, a student-led initiative funded by the
federal government conducted a campus health survey and safety audit
and implemented a bystander program, with student athletes and coach-
es playing a prominent role. Twelve high-profile athletes volunteered
to participate in the school’s Take the Pledge awareness campaign, in-
cluding football receiver Donald Tabor, who appears in an ad saying:
“Perpetrating or simply permitting violence against women is cowardly
•In June, a task force of the Association of Universities and Colleges of
Canada provided an online resource for university presidents, calling on
leaders to use orientation-week activities as an opportunity to talk to stu-
dents about what constitutes appropriate behaviour and to spell out the
institution’s policies on how it prevents and responds to sexual assault.
• Saint Mary’s University is implementing 20 recommendations by a president’s task force established after last year’s rape chant.
As juvenile and innocuous as the chant may have seemed, it was “
indicative of a rape culture,” a culture that exists not just at Saint Mary’s but
on all campuses, said the Saint Mary’s task force. Wayne MacKay, chair of
the task force and a law professor at Dalhousie University, said the chant
is “symptomatic of deeper problems in terms of how women are viewed.”
During the hearings, Professor MacKay was surprised to discover how
many young people – men and women alike – didn’t understand the meaning of consent. “Defining what is consensual and what is not is really the
critical foundation on which everything is built. We can and need to educate
everybody on campus so that there is no real doubt about this,” he said.
The use of alcohol clouds the issue and is a significant risk factor for
sexual violence on campus, the task force found, prompting criticism from
people who argued that talking about alcohol use amounts to blaming the
In the United States, numerous
allegations of sexual assault on
university campuses have dominated
headlines in recent months and
caught the attention of the U.S.
government and the White House.
Since May, the U.S. Department
of Education and the Department
of Justice have begun investigating
more than 60 institutions for
failing to comply with Title IX of the
1972 Education Amendments, which
prohibits sex discrimination in any
federally funded educational institution.
The law has evolved to include sexual
assault as a form of harassment
and requires universities to respond
to a student’s allegations of assault.
The White House Task Force to
Progress in the U.S.
Protect Students from Sexual Assault
issued new guidelines in April to
help colleges prevent and respond
to sexual assaults and gave schools
a toolkit to conduct campus safety
surveys. It recommended that schools
implement bystander intervention
programs, adopt new reporting and
confidentiality protocols, and draft or
reevaluate existing sexual misconduct
policies. The task force launched a
new website, notalone.gov, that offers
information on how to prevent and
respond to campus sexual assault
and how to file a Title IX complaint.
Under the 1990 campus crime
reporting law known as the Clery Act,
colleges and universities that receive
federal student aid funds are required
to collect and disclose campus
crime statistics annually. The act was
amended several times to beef up
reporting requirements, most recently
in June by the Obama administration.
In July, a group of senators led by
Claire McCaskill introduced legislation
to further tighten disclosure rules
and impose harsher penalties on
institutions that don’t comply.