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York University urged to take action over sex assaults

Students walk on the York University campus in Toronto.

Mark Blinch/REUTERS

York University needs to do more than increase security personnel on campus to address a series of sexual assaults, students say, after the revelation that there was another sexual assault on campus Wednesday.

Campus security services said a female student was approached and touched inappropriately at the GO Bus stop at Accolade East Wednesday afternoon. It was the sixth assault in less than four weeks, five of which were sexual in nature.

A woman was sexually assaulted Nov. 23. Then less than two hours later, another woman reported a sexual assault and a few hours after that, two more people were assaulted – one who had to go to the hospital after being hit on the head with a metal pipe by men seeking drugs.

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On Nov. 26, another woman reported being sexually assaulted by an unknown man at a campus bus stop, and on Nov. 29, a woman reported being sexually assaulted by a man in a basement of the university when he pressed himself against her.

A media spokesperson for York University refused to comment on the attacks, as they are under investigation. But in an e-mailed statement, the university said it's "deeply troubled by reported safety occurrences on our campus."

York has added 10 new security members to its team of 24 and increased the amount spent on safety and security-related expenses, according to its November online safety fact sheet. Toronto police patrols have also increased.

In a Nov. 26 mass e-mail, the university's president Mamdouh Shoukri told students he's deeply concerned that "despite the significant investments and security enhancements that have been made to create a safe campus, incidents continue to occur."

However, a student who helped organized a recent protest on the issue, pointed out more ways the university could improve safety.

Navid Khan, a second-year biochemistry student, thinks the university needs to invest in better lighting, key cards to access buildings and more security cameras with personnel to monitor them.

He said some students feel more secure with the addition of staff, but he felt students' concerns were dismissed at a Nov. 29 open forum.

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"They were giving us that whole vibe of, 'Oh well other university campuses have had it so we might as well go through some problems too and it's not really an issue,' " he said.

Although personally she feels safe, the vice-president equity of the York Federation of Students Safiyah Husein said the university needs to look at the causes of the assaults.

"We're working to fight the forms of racism, misogyny, sexism; all these things that contribute to violence happening on campus so that we can adjust all aspects of safety," she said, adding the university has taken steps but they "can always do more."

The university will be holding another safety forum, for parents of students, Dec. 11.

Despite the most recent assault, Mr. Khan said he still thinks the problems can be addressed.

"Hopefully we can come back and change [the vibe] after exams are done," he said.

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TIMELINE

  • Dec. 5: Campus security services said a female student was approached and touched inappropriately at the GO Bus stop at Accolade East.
  • Nov. 29: Woman reports sexual assault in basement of building, says man pressed her against him.
  • Nov. 26: A woman reported being sexually assaulted by an unknown man at a campus bus stop.
  • Nov. 23: Campus safety reported a woman was sexually assaulted around 3:15 p.m.
  • Nov. 23: Campus safety reported a woman was sexually assaulted around 5 p.m.
  • Nov. 23: Two people were assaulted, one who had to go to the hospital after being hit on the head with a metal pipe, by men seeking drugs.
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