Survey Results "Heartbreaking And Disturbing": Minister

Minister Announcement
Minister Merrilee Fullerton (centre) announces the results of a sexual violence survey at Queen's Park (screenshot of government's YouTube channel).

Provincial Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Merrilee Fullerton described the results of a voluntary student survey on sexual violence on Ontario’s postsecondary campuses “heartbreaking and disturbing” during a March 19th press conference at Queen’s Park.

In early 2018, approximately 160,000 postsecondary students responded to the government’s “Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey”.

The most alarming response from that exercise, Fullerton said, indicated that upwards of 63 percent of respondents said they had experienced some sort of sexual violence since the beginning of their academic year (2017-18), including non-consensual sexual contact, harassment and stalking.

The Minister was also displeased by the fact that 40 percent of the respondents who said they had reported such incidents to officials at their schools were dissatisfied with the institutions’ handling of their complaints.

Saying her Ministry had a “zero tolerance” of such incidents, Fullerton announced these preliminary measures to combat sexual violence on postsecondary campuses:

• funding for programs to deal with the issue would be doubled to $6 million in the 2019-20 year. Grants from that funding will allow colleges and universities to develop new response techniques, awareness initiatives, counselling services, provide staff training, and install safety equipment (including exterior lighting);

• the administrations of all institutions must now track all reported incidents of sexual violence (they already do so), and – new – furnish annual reports about such incidents (and how they were handled) with their Boards of Governors (the highest decision-making body at these schools);

• all institutions (if they have not already done so) must create task forces on sexual violence by this fall, made up of administrators, faculty members and students. They will review existing services and recommend the creation of new ones. Those task forces, too, will submit annual reports to the schools’ Boards of Governors and to the Ministry.

Here, also, is the Ministry’s press release on Fullerton’s announcement:

Today Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, released a summary report of the 2018 Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey.

The summary report will provide postsecondary institutions with important information, including institution-level summaries, to inform their sexual violence response and prevention efforts.

To protect the privacy of participants, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities is engaging with the Information and Privacy Commissioner on the release of additional results to institutions and the public.

"Our government takes the safety and well-being of our students seriously," said Fullerton. "Our postsecondary institutions have a responsibility to protect students, and must do everything possible to ensure campuses are free from sexual violence. Our government has zero tolerance for sexual assault, harassment, and any other form of violence in our communities."  

Minister Fullerton also announced the following immediate actions to protect students and address the serious issue of sexual violence affecting postsecondary students:

• Require every publicly-assisted college and university to report annually to its board of governors on a number of measures related to the experiences of and support for students who have experienced sexual violence;

• Doubling the government's 2018-19 investment in the Women's Campus Safety Grant to assist colleges and universities in supporting the prevention of sexual violence;

• Require every publicly assisted college and university in Ontario to have a task force devoted to tackling sexual violence on campus. The task force would include diverse student representatives and be required to report its findings to both their respective Board of Governors as well as to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

• Require every publicly-assisted college and university in Ontario to review their sexual violence policies, by September 2019.

"No one should have to worry about their safety on campus," concluded Fullerton. "These measures will help our publicly assisted colleges and universities to address sexual violence and harassment."

The Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey was conducted to gather information about how respondents perceive, understand, and respond to sexual violence, as well their level of satisfaction with their institution’s sexual violence supports and services, if they disclosed their experience to staff or faculty at the institution. The survey did not limit students to reflecting on experiences that occurred on-campus only.

Over 746,000 full-time students at Ontario’s postsecondary campuses were invited to respond to the survey between February and April, 2018. More than 160,000 students across Ontario participated in this voluntary survey.

Break-down: 26.5 percent of university students, 16.3 percent of college students, and 9.3 percent of private career college students submitted surveys.

Postsecondary institutions are required to have and post a standalone sexual violence policy which must be reviewed at least every three years.

Institutions are currently required to collect information and report to the Minister or Superintendent as required on:

- Number of times supports, services and accommodation relating to sexual violence are requested and obtained by students and information about the supports, services and accommodations;

- Number of incidents and complaints of sexual violence reported by students and information about incidents and complaints;

- Any initiatives or programs by the college or university to promote awareness of the supports and services available to students;

- Implementation and effectiveness of the institution’s policy.