September 5, 2013

For Immediate Release

Halifax—Students Nova Scotia is condemning the misogynistic chant promoting sexual assault at Saint Mary’s University.

“StudentsNS, its members, and all of the students we represent unequivocally condemn the SMU chant. There is not, and has never been, any place for this sort of culture on our university campuses”, said StudentsNS Executive Director Jonathan Williams. “While the SMU students involved surely failed to grasp the severity of what they were doing and saying, this very fact highlights the need to speak out about sexism when we see it, to refuse to allow a culture of sexism to fester on our campuses, and to the importance of cultivating a sustained conversation that creates real understanding, empathy and action around consent, sexual oppression, and sexual violence.”

In recognition of the gravity of events at SMU, Jared Perry has stepped down as Chair of StudentsNS.

StudentsNS believes that student unions must play a leadership role in changing and challenging this sort of thinking and behaviour among students. Nova Scotia has the highest rates of sexual assault in Canada, and post-secondary students are especially vulnerable. Fully 62% of university women in Canada say they have been sexually assaulted, while the majority of patients at the Avalon Centre’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program between 2010 and 2011 were women aged 17 to 25, with many of the cases involving drugs or alcohol.

“We can’t control everything that happens on campus or in our communities but, where we can make a difference, we’re committed to doing our utmost to protect our students,” said Matthew Rios, StudentsNS Vice Chair. “All our student unions hope that SMU Students’ Association will be empowered to act decisively to build a more inclusive, safe and caring culture at SMU, and will work with them every step along the way. SMU students are rightly proud of their community, and we are certain they will be doubly proud to see the action that they take to make their community stronger.”

Last week Nova Scotia student unions, with support from the Provincial Government, announced multiple projects that aim to prevent sexual assault on campuses and reduce risks around alcohol consumption. The total value of the initiatives is $46,156, with contributions of $31,291 from the Province, $13,465 from student unions, and $1,400 from Cape Breton University.

The projects include two separate reviews of student union policies and practices around sexual assault prevention and alcohol. Experienced consultant, Anne Martell, will complete the reviews under the guidance of steering committees comprised of student leaders from participating student unions. The research will provide student unions with best practices for ensuring their student bars and other activities are not only safe, but foster a culture of prevention. A portion of the project funding is allocated to support the implementation of review recommendations. The sexual assault prevention Steering Committee will also develop a communications campaign to spread awareness of sexual assault and encourage bystander intervention.

“Our projects are aiming to ensure our student unions have the best possible practices to prevent sexual assault and most importantly foster a caring culture”, said Williams. “We are committed to ensuring nothing like what has emerged in the last 24 hours ever takes place again in a Nova Scotia student union activity.”

Student unions participating in the Reviews include the Saint Mary’s University Students’ Association, the Acadia Students’ Union, Cape Breton University Students’ Union, Dalhousie Agriculture Students Association, Mount Saint Vincent University Students’ Union, and StFX Students’ Union. The Dalhousie Student Union will join these unions in implementing the sexual assault prevention communications campaign.

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For more information or questions, please contact:

Jonathan Williams

StudentsNS Executive Director

(O) 902.422.4068

(C) 902.483.5480

(E) director@studentsns.ca

 

Matthew Rios

Acadia Students’ Union President

(O) 902.300.2102

(E) matthew.rios@acadiau.ca

 

Students Nova Scotia (StudentsNS), formerly the Alliance of Nova Scotia Student Associations, is a not-for-profit and non-partisan advocacy group that represents 87% of Nova Scotia university students. Our 37,471 members study at Acadia, Cape Breton, Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s, and St. Francis Xavier Universities and the Atlantic School of Theology.