We Need Better

Casey Dobson & Virginia Rufina Marquez-Pacheco
Former Assistant Editor-in-Chief & Former Editor-in-Chief

As an institution, Bandersnatch Newspaper stands behind its opinion that the response from John Abbott College concerning the recent allegations of sexual violence was not adequate in addressing the core issues. These core issues centre around the fact that as an educational institution, John Abbott College has failed to actively put a stop to the culture that allows for sexual harassment, assault, and rape to continue occurring. While the recent allegations have yet to be proven or disproven, the fact that such incidents, as well as a previous confirmed case, were allowed to occur speaks volumes to the inadequacy of the system the college has put in place.

It has come to our attention (and it is the opinion of our staff) that the statement sent to members of the college community read like a damage control piece from an institution focused on fulfilling its legal obligation, rather than an acceptance of responsibility for the culture it has perpetuated. In fact, some would argue that the statement was more intent on saving the college’s reputation than on assuring the wellbeing of its students, who are affected by the culture of sexual assault.

While we understand that the college is not taking responsibility until the conclusion of the investigation, many of us feel that they do have some form of responsibility when it comes to the fact that the case was covered up. This is evidenced by the fact that these events were only brought to the forefront after an article appeared in The Link, the Concordia University newspaper (meaning that Concordia told Abbott students about an Abbott problem before Abbott did!). Yes, there were privacies to be respected, but the fact that it happened on numerous occasions demonstrates that the initial response wasn’t sufficient. This is where we had hoped to see accountability on the part of the college, instead of the apparent blanket statement of the college prohibiting sexual violence and the obvious belief that members of the community deserve to study and work in an atmosphere free from it.

Furthermore, the brevity of the actual addressing of the incidents contributed to the feeling that this was an empty statement. As much as the reminder of the resources available was appreciated, it was commonly noted that those policies and resources are clearly not as reliable or do not work in the way students feel they should, a sentiment confirmed by the fact that the issues are happening in the first place.

As for concrete ideas, some have suggested that the statement should have included a commitment to investigating the effectiveness of the policies and resources themselves, as well as acknowledgement of the status that athletes and coaches have within the college community. Despite the continued enforcement of the sexual violence training for all athletes, it is imperative that this training be followed up on throughout the year, as the initial seminar is clearly not working. However, the college’s own students should not be the ones having to educate the institution on how to better protect us and our community from the pervasive culture. It is the college’s responsibility to ensure that its policies and systems are actually fulfilling their stated principles, and we hope that we will see more genuine and effective action in the future.

Originally Published on www.bandersnatch.ca as a standalone article on June 13th, 2020

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