Content warning: mention of sexual assault
SFU has a long-standing history of failing their students. But some of their most egregious failures have been the multiple mishandlings of sexual assault cases on campus. Much more can be done to prevent sexual violence on campus, and SFU should start doing this by allocating additional funds to create a mandatory, first-year course on sexual violence prevention.
I started at SFU in Fall 2016, and I was never made aware of any sexual violence support resources; the Sexual Violence Support and Prevention Office (SVSPO) wasn’t even given a permanent space on campus until May 2018. In 2018, I was a victim of sexual assault. Even then, my case manager told me she was not surprised I had never heard of their office. The SVSPO was created solely in accordance with provincial legislation. SFU’s resources are not adequate as they were mandated only to fit a requirement by the BC government.
In addition to the SVSPO, sexual violence prevention would be more effective if a course like Canvas’ SFU 101 was made mandatory for first-years — but through synchronous teaching. This would be more engaging than an online module. Discussing topics, like sexual violence, in a classroom can help build student solidarity as they go through their undergraduate degree. With online modules like the plagiarism tutorial, the mini quizzes and learning objectives are easy to pass and do not require much analysis. This is unsatisfactory for meaningful retention as many students can easily skim through, or even cheat.
In synchronous classes, they could teach the importance of consent, what it looks like, and what it does not look like. The SVSPO did introduce a #consentmatterssfu campaign in January 2016 which aimed to educate the student populace. But what actual change do posters or online resources effect? The reality is that students are juggling the transition to university with many of life’s other issues. They are not going to take the initiative to read posters in detail and go to the websites they suggest. Even if a student chooses to do so, the information would not be as impactful, and would not actively engage students as it would in a synchronous course.
Furthermore, this mandatory class would educate the freshman body of the resources on campus, and this formal introduction could aid in prevention. It would also show SFU cares about their students and that, no matter their gender identity, their feelings and experiences are valid. The BC government dedicated $5.5 million in funding over a five year period in 2018 to tackle the issue of sexual violence. SFU could push for this funding to go towards a mandatory course, or even pull from their large tuition surpluses to fund this initiative.
SFU is long overdue to establish direct, prevention-oriented measures. These actions need to be more than just poster campaigns or links featured in Student Service emails. By adding a mandatory, first-year course that every student would need to complete to graduate, students would be more aware of the issue of sexual violence on campus. Information could then be more openly discussed, allowing for true education of sexual violence.