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Une lettre ouverte à la Vice-rectrice à ladministration, février 2024 

Un courriel récent adressé à la communauté universitaire a noté que vous mettez en avant, pour le Mois de l’Histoire des Noir.e.s, la personnalité de Michaëlle Jean. Mais saviez-vous que, en 2014, alors que Jean était chancelière de l’Université d’Ottawa, elle a déclaré que la culture du viol n’était pas seulement omniprésente, mais qu’elle se développait sur les campus universitaires ? Intéressant !
 

Car, jour après jour, semaine après semaine, depuis des mois maintenant, vous avez passé votre temps, comme si nous étions encre en 2014, à parcourir les couloirs du campus de Pointe-de-l’Église, arrachant – parfois avec colère – des affiches du site www.sachangenow.ca des panneaux d’affichage et la définition de la culture du viol d’une porte de bureau, ainsi que les punaises. Quel gaspillage incroyable de papier, de punaises, de temps, d’énergie et de
leadership !


Apparemment, vous voulez désespérément gérer la perception de ce qui se fait à Sainte-Anne concernant sa culture du viol, et nier l’existence de www.sachangenow.ca. Pourtant, le site web SA Change Now et les comptes Instagram sont en ligne et le resteront. Les 40 vignettes et les 24
histoires soumises – des exemples affreux, mais typiques, bien que ne grattant que la surface, de la culture du viol de Sainte-Anne – seront toujours là. Le syndicat du corps professoral a voté le 1er novembre pour reconnaître l’existence d’une culture du viol à Sainte-Anne. Des centaines et des centaines de personnes ont visité et continuent de visiter le site web et le compte Instagram ;
tous les principaux résultats d’une simple recherche d’actualités sur Google concernant Sainte-Anne sont des histoires sur la culture du viol et la campagne.


En fait, la perception et la réalité sont que la vice-présidente d’une université canadienne passe son temps à se promener dans les couloirs de l’université pour enlever des morceaux de papier. Cette même vice-présidente a appelé une des membres de la campagne – victime de harcèlement
sexuel, d’agression et de viol – sur son téléphone portable personnel et l’a accusée de « vandalisme » et de « harcèlement » pour avoir placé quelques papiers sur la porte de son bureau, à deux reprises, en septembre. Des papiers relatifs à une campagne étudiante contre la culture du viol, une campagne qui a maintenant accumulé plus de 60 témoignages de harcèlement,
d’agression sexuelle et de viol dans une université qui ne compte que 350 étudiants à temps plein. Ces témoignages brossent le portrait horriblement inoubliable d’une culture du viol qui perdure, telle que définie dans la politique révisée de Sainte-Anne pour la prévention des violences sexuelles, une politique dont vous êtes responsable (voir ci-dessous). Le contraire de cette culture, comme l’indique cette définition, est la promotion d’une du respect. Le respect. Tel
que, par exemple, le respect des témoignages des nombreux et nombreuses victimes et
survivant.e.s de la culture du viol dans votre université, et de la campagne basée sur ces
témoignages.

 

Alors, plutôt que de gaspiller votre temps à enlever des morceaux de papier des panneaux d’affichage, pourquoi ne pas travailler à respecter et à mettre en place les recommandations que SA Change Now – un groupe d’étudiantes et étudiants qui ont été victimes et survivant.e.s de harcèlement, d’agression et de viol à Sainte-Anne – a énoncées sur son site web ? Des recommandations soutenues par plus de 800 signatures (et ce nombre ne cesse de croître) sur la pétition en ligne.


Bien sûr, depuis que vous parcourez les couloirs, enlevant les affiches, il n’y a aucun signe que vous voudriez réellement respecter les étudiant.e.s victimes et survivant.e.s, et encore moins de leur parler de la manière dont Sainte-Anne pourrait non seulement améliorer ses politiques en matière de harcèlement sexuel, d’agression sexuelle et de viol, mais aussi assurer la mise en pratique de ces politiques avec bienveillance et en tenant compte des traumatismes. Car ce que tout le monde à Sainte-Anne et au-delà a entendu et même vu que vous pratiquez, jour après jour, c’est le déni d’une campagne contre la culture du viol qui existe. Et il semble donc, pour étudiant.e après étudiant.e après étudiant.e, que vous niez également l’existence de la culture du viol à Sainte-Anne.


Que dirait Michaëlle Jean ?

Culture du viol

 

Désigne un environnement social qui normalise et justifie la violence sexuelle et qui est alimenté par les inégalités persistantes entre les sexes et les attitudes à leur égard, selon ONU Femmes. La culture du viol, telle que la définit notre province (voir Briser le silence), ne signifie pas forcément que la société ou les individus font ouvertement et activement la promotion de la violence sexuelle, mais plutôt que celle-ci se perpétue en grande partie à travers de fausses croyances aveugles. Il s’agit d’une culture où l’on blâme la présumée victime (« regarde ce qu’elle porte », « elle buvait »…) et où le consentement est flou (« elle flirtait », « elle n’a pas dit non assez fort »…). Le contraire est la promotion d’une du respect, axée sur le consentement.

 

                 —Politique visant à prévenir et à contrer la                                   violence à caractère sexuel

                     Responsable : Vice-rectorat à l’administration

                     Approbateur : Conseil des gouverneurs

                     Adoptée le 23 septembre 2023

                     Mise en vigueur le 23 septembre 2023

Open letter to the Vice-Rector (Administration), February 2024 

 

A recent email to the university community noted that you are highlighting, for Black History Month, the work of Michaëlle Jean. But did you know that, back in 2014, when Jean was chancellor at the University of Ottawa, she said that rape culture was not only pervasive but growing on university campuses? Interesting!

Because, day after day, week after week, for months now, you have been spending your time, as if it is pre-2014, walking the halls at the Church Point campus, tearing down—and sometimes angrily tearing up—www.sachangenow.ca flyers from bulletin boards and the definition of rape culture from an office door, along with the thumbtacks. What an incredible waste of paper, tacks, time, energy, and leadership!

 

Apparently, you want to desperately manage the perception of what’s being done at Sainte-Anne about its rape culture, and to deny that www.sachangenow.ca exists. Yet the SA Change Now website and Instagram accounts are up and will always be up. The 40 vignettes and 24 submitted stories—awful yet typical examples, though only scratching the surface, of Sainte-Anne’s rape culture—will always be out there. The faculty union voted on November 1 to recognize that there is a rape culture at Sainte-Anne. Hundreds and hundreds of people have visited and continue to visit the website and the Instagram account; all the top hits for a simple Google news search about Sainte-Anne are stories about its rape culture and the campaign.

 

So, the perception, instead, and the reality is that the vice-president of a Canadian university is spending her time walking its halls to take down pieces of paper. The same vice-president who called up one of the campaign’s members—a sexual harassment, assault, and rape victim—on her personal cellphone and accused her of “vandalism” and “harassment” for putting a few pieces of paper on her office door, twice, in September. Pieces of paper related to a student anti-rape culture campaign, a campaign that has now amassed more than 60 accounts of harassment, sexual assault, and rape at a university of just 350 full-time students. And these accounts paint a horribly unforgettable picture of an ongoing rape culture, as defined in the revised Sainte-Anne policy for the prevention of sexual violence, a policy for which you are responsible (see below). The contrary of that culture, as noted in that definition, is la promotion d’une du respect. Respect. Such as, for instance, respecting the accounts of the many victims and survivors of the rape culture at your university, and the campaign based on those accounts.

 

So, rather than waste your time removing pieces of paper from bulletin boards, why don’t you work on respecting and instituting the recommendations that SA Change Now—a group of student victims and survivors of harassment, assault, and rape at Sainte-Anne—has outlined on its website? Recommendations supported by more than 800 signatures and counting on the online petition.

 

Of course, ever since you have been walking the halls, taking down the flyers, there is no sense that you would actually want to respect, let alone talk to, student victims and survivors about how Sainte-Anne could not just improve its policies re: sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape but ensure the caring, trauma-informed practice of those policies. Because what everyone at Sainte-Anne and beyond it has heard about and even seen you practice, day after day after day, is the denial of an anti-rape culture campaign that exists. And so it seems, to student after student after student, that you’re denying that Sainte-Anne’s rape culture exists, too.

 

What would Michaëlle Jean say?

 

 

 

 

 

Culture du viol

 

Désigne un environnement social qui normalise et justifie la violence sexuelle et qui est alimenté par les inégalités persistantes entre les sexes et les attitudes à leur égard, selon ONU Femmes. La culture du viol, telle que la définit notre province (voir Briser le silence), ne signifie pas forcément que la société ou les individus font ouvertement et activement la promotion de la violence sexuelle, mais plutôt que celle-ci se perpétue en grande partie à travers de fausses croyances aveugles. Il s’agit d’une culture où l’on blâme la présumée victime (« regarde ce qu’elle porte », « elle buvait »…) et où le consentement est flou (« elle flirtait », « elle n’a pas dit non assez fort »…). Le contraire est la promotion d’une du respect, axée sur le consentement.

 

                 —Politique visant à prévenir et à contrer la                                   violence à caractère sexuel

                     Responsable : Vice-rectorat à l’administration

                     Approbateur : Conseil des gouverneurs

                     Adoptée le 23 septembre 2023

                     Mise en vigueur le 23 septembre 2023

Qui sommes-nous?   

Nous sommes un groupe d’étudiantes et d’étudiants de l’Université Sainte-Anne—actuels, anciens et diplômés—qui ont été victimes de la culture du viol à l’université et/ou qui ont des gens ou des ami-e-s victimes de cette culture du viol. Nous sommes fatiguées, excédées et outrées par les nombreuses expériences de harcèlement, d’agression sexuelle et de viol à l’Université Sainte-Anne, ou par les expériences de harcèlement, d’agression sexuelle et de viol que nous avons nous-mêmes vécues... Et surtout, nous sommes scandalisées de constater que l’université ne prend pas ces histoires, ces expériences et ces cas au sérieux et ne traite pas les victimes avec compassion, attention et sollicitude. Les étudiants de Sainte-Anne ont, pendant des années, déposé des plaintes et soulevé des questions sur le harcèlement sexuel et les agressions sexuelles sur le campus, sans grand résultat. C’est pourquoi, aujourd’hui, nous exposons publiquement les récits et les expériences de quelques-unes des victimes de la culture du viol à l’université. Nous vous demandons votre soutien et votre aide pour demander à l’administration de l’Université et à son Conseil des gouverneurs de procéder à des réformes en profondeur afin de mettre un terme une fois pour toute à la culture du viol à Sainte-Anne.

Who are we?

We are a group of Université Sainte-Anne students—present, former, and graduates—who have been victimized by the rape culture at the university and/or who have friends and known others victimized by its rape culture. We have become so tired of, fed up with, and outraged by the many experiences of harassment, sexual assault, and rape at Université Sainte-Anne, and/or experiencing such harassment, sexual assault, and rape ourselves . . . only for the university to so often not take such experiences and cases seriously, and to not treat victims with compassion, care, and concern. Students at Sainte-Anne have, for years, raised complaints and questions about sexual harassment and sexual assault to little avail. So, now, we are publicly voicing the accounts and experiences of just some of the victims of rape culture at the university. We are asking for your support and your help in petitioning the university administration and its Board of Governors to make serious reforms and to begin curbing the rape culture at Sainte-Anne.

CAMPAIGN REPORT/UPDATE (NOVEMBER 28, 2023)

 

There are now, on this website, 40 vignettes and 24 submitted stories related to and relating sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape at our microuniversity, a place with fewer students than a high school. Serious change can and must be made.

The Vice-Rector (Administration) continues to take down, from bulletin boards on campus, flyers in support of our campaign; she has been witnessed doing so by visitors, students, and a professor. The definition of rape culture on one professor’s office door has been repeatedly removed.

It was recently announced that the Rector will be stepping down in June, two years before his mandate is due to end.

 

On Nov. 1, the faculty union voted to recognize that there is a rape culture on campus.

 

SA Change Now continues to request that the university administration acknowledge the glaring problem of the rape culture on campus. Our campaign calls on the Rector to admit and apologize for the rape culture and to promise to effect our five recommended reforms. The petition in support of these reforms has more than 800 signatures and will be presented to the Rector soon. What matters is students’ safety, security, and well-being . . . and acknowledging the strength that survivors have shown in telling their stories.

CAMPAIGN REPORT/UPDATE (SEPTEMBER 27, 2023)

Since September 1, when Faut que SA change maintenant / SA Change Now, our anti-rape culture campaign (there are nine of us: current students, former students, and recent graduates) launched, we have posted a vignette daily on this website and our Instagram; the website includes many submitted stories. (One vignette disclosed that, in 2018-19, there was a serial rapist on campus, working as a student security officer, who had at least 17 victims; three submitted stories on the website concern this perpetrator.) Media outlets, from Radio Canada to the Canadian Press, have made our campaign national news. On September 7, the local Meteghan detachment of the RCMP appealed to survivors and witnesses of assaults and rapes at Université Sainte-Anne to come forward with information; an RCMP spokesman said of SA Change Now: “This is the first instance (in the past three years) that I’ve seen where an online campaign led directly to any kind of an investigation or file being opened . . . These movements give survivors the courage and the confidence to finally come forward to tell their story and to bring them to the police.” Indeed, since our website launched, there have been 23 submitted stories from other victims and survivors posted on it. So, along with the vignettes, there are, as of today (Sept. 27), 50 accounts so far related to or relating sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape at a microuniversity (with only around 350 full-time students).

 

Yet the administration at Université Sainte-Anne has not only refused to acknowledge or apologize for the university’s obvious rape culture, or to promise to institute our campaign’s five basic, recommended reforms (backed by more than 700 petition signatures and counting). It has tried to be stubbornly resistant. That resistance includes intimidatory efforts to attack the campaign or undermine it. Yet these efforts from the administration at an institution of higher-learning read, sadly, like juvenile-delinquent child’s play and infantile reprisals. Adults, paid to run a university, are not taking the safety, security, and well-being of the students in their care seriously; they are refusing to commit themselves to and initiate serious reforms to help make young people feel as if their awful experiences of a rape culture are finally being heard and heeded. They are, instead, spending and wasting their time lashing out at our student campaign, a campaign voicing the experiences of survivors and victims of harassment, rape, and sexual assault at Sainte-Anne, year after year, and so identifying a deeply systemic, localized rape culture that can and must be rooted out.

 

Our campaign flyers have been taken down from bulletin boards and thrown out, in some cases by the Rector himself. The president of the university came in on at least one Sunday afternoon to (a security guard told a professor he saw the man) tear down mere pieces of paper soliciting support for the campaign’s petition or asking that Sainte-Anne’s rape culture be changed, now. Recently, after flyers were replaced, they were removed within hours or days   . . . so the main university buildings are being hall-monitored for, swept, and cleared of notices about our student campaign.

 

The Vice-Rector (Administration) repeatedly called one of our campaign members—a victim of sexual harassment and rape who suffers from PTSD—on her cellphone, then embroiled her in an hour-long conversation, including accusing her (the student) of vandalism in putting campaign flyers on her office door, which made her (the administrator) feel “harassed”, and so there would be serious consequences for the student.

 

After talking once to a co-worker about the campaign in a respectful, closed-door conversation, a professor received an email from the Dean, cc’ing the Vice-Rector (Teaching and Research), reminding the professor of the sector in which he works, telling him that he could see no reason why he would “constantly bother” the employee in question, and informing him that he was unsettling all the members of the Dean’s team on that floor. The professor’s printed-out dictionary definition of rape culture (n., a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse) was ripped down off his office door.

 

The faculty union leadership has capitulated to the administration by issuing a joint letter stating that, after the union executive met with the Rector, all is good and “the channels of communication between the professorial corps and the senior administration are now open, to ensure that there is a safe environment” . . . after union members voted 24 Yes, 5 No, and 5 Abstentions to this proposition: “[The faculty union] supports the effort of students in the prevention of sexual violence on campus”. Soon after the joint letter, the faculty union leadership requested that, to reflect its membership’s majority voice (?!), the professor who runs the union’s Facebook page no longer post on it SA Change Now campaign messages or information in support of our student movement . . . which is most certainly seeking “the prevention of sexual violence on campus”! The professor has, in disgust, relinquished his role as social-media manager for the union.

 

So, clearly, given these sad, pathetic examples of childishness, pettiness, peevishness, and intransigence—not to mention attacks on the basic right of students to organize and campaign for rudimentary improvements to and greater safety at the place where they work and live for at least six months each year—the rape culture at Sainte-Anne will not be changed or ended from within. (For instance, at the Sept. 25 meeting of the Provincial Sexual Violence Prevention Committee, Sainte-Anne’s representative, a mid-level administrator, was asked if the committee could help with the campaign’s demands, specifically the position of a Sexual-Assault Complaints Officer that SA Change Now has suggested. The committee suggested that Sainte-Anne could do up a proposal asking for funding from the committee; the administrator responded that the university is working on changes itself and will continue on that path.) Clearly, then, not unless there is enough pressure from the outside (media, public, government, external evaluators who are brought in), rather than the inside—precisely why our campaign, via a website and Instagram, was launched and is being run as it is, and trying to keep most members’ anonymity (to help avoid more of the reprisals and targeting already indulged in by the administration)—will Sainte-Anne’s rape culture start to be addressed, taken seriously, and changed. There obviously are not enough powers-that-be at Université Sainte-Anne who care enough about how many students have been harassed, assaulted, and raped at the institution.

 

Yet our accounts keep coming. A few days ago, a recent graduate and campaign member finished writing up her serialized vignette of (while she was a second-year student) being sexually harassed online by an older student doing a research project at Sainte-Anne. His obsessive behaviour had been reported to the university’s senior administration, but he was deemed by the then-Vice-Rector (Administration) to have changed, allowing the harasser to stay on campus, using it as a place where he could continue to pursue and hound young women. After the second-year student’s report, the harasser returned home, having suffered no consequences, and she felt, then, as though she had overreacted and wasted her time by reporting him, though he had harassed at least five other women she knew, including the then-counsellor at Sainte-Anne. It was only while digging through old emails from the Vice-Rector, and through screenshots of the messages between her and the harasser, piecing together information for her vignette, that our member truly came to understand how poorly the senior administration had handled her case.

 

The campaign has given many more of a voice, even as it has taken its toll. Another member has not been able to bring herself to write a vignette yet, but has given interviews and appeared in news stories about the rape culture at Sainte-Anne. While it was scary for her at first—knowing how small the campus is and how talk would swirl about who she was—talking to the media helped her feel listened to and made her more hopeful that her story could get others to realize the severity of the rape culture on campus. Still, she was thrown recently when the best friend of her rapist messaged the campaign to make out he was a victim and suggest she was lying. The group came to her aid and rallied around—supporting her on their groupchat, where she could vent—and then she, with another member drafting it, posted a comprehensive, crystal-clear response to the gaslighting message.

 

And campaign member Joanna Clark, a Sainte-Anne alumna who was a dorm advisor and member of the students’ association, has been doing her best to amplify the group’s campaign to the media in interviews. After having had her voice silenced during a conversation with a member of the administration back when she was a student at Sainte-Anne, she feels that the only way to have our voices heard is to, finally, speak out. Reports to the upper administration have been ignored and swept under the rug for far, far too long. Reaching out to the media, informing the general public, and popping the rural bubble surrounding the university are how, she says, we must confront the rape culture that has existed and persisted for at least a decade. The university administration must acknowledge the glaring problem of the rape culture on campus. And, in the end, whether they make the reforms to preserve the university’s reputation or to reassure students, what matters is students’ safety, security, and well-being . . . and acknowledging the strength that survivors have shown in bringing their experiences forward.

 

So, we, Faut que SA change maintenant / SA Change Now, are not going away. But the rape culture at our microuniversity—smaller than most high schools in this province!—cannot, either, until the adults in charge finally get down to the serious business of instituting genuine, heartfelt reforms.

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