Carleton’s “Sexual Assault Centre”: Thoughts from the GSA
This morning the GSA found out via an online Ottawa Citizen article that Carleton President Roseann Runte had announced the creation of a university administered sexual assault centre in Robertson Hall. This announcement was made without consultation with the student community, including the GSA, CUSA , and the Coalition for a Carleton Sexual Assault Support Centre. Since 2007, students have been fighting for a student-run support centre – a place for peer-to-peer support for survivors of sexual violence and a site for information and campaigns that work toward ending rape culture. Time and time again students were told by Carleton’s senior administration that there was no need for such a centre; we were told there was no space for a centre; we were told there was no money for a centre. The Coalition had been in discussions with Equity Services over the past year with regards to a joint proposal for a student and university administered centre; all that has been thrown away by the President’s abrupt reversal.
At the moment it appears this centre will simply be a space with a name and an “advisory committee,” the structure of which remains unclear. There is no money for new staff, there will be no peer-to-peer student support and advocacy. The GSA and our student, staff, and faculty allies are certainly pleased that the university has suddenly reversed its position on the need for a sexual assault centre on campus. However, it is deeply concerning that this decision was made without consultation with those who have been advocating for a centre for so long.
In March 2011, GSA members voted overwhelmingly in favour of a $1 levy to support the creation and maintenance of a student-run, university funded sexual assault support centre. This levy was a gesture to show the university that, if the claim of there being no money was indeed true, students were willing to contribute funds to make the centre a reality. Support for the levy was just one of a litany of signals to the university administration that students and the Carleton community are serious about their vision for a centre on campus.
Instead of responding to such cues, President Runte has chosen to implement a top-down approach and ignore 5 years of student-led research, campaigning, and lobbying. The Carleton community has been told how it’s going to be, not asked how it should be. Such actions from the university reveal that this is, in fact, not about what the community needs and wants, it is, rather, about image management and public relations.