St. Fran­cis Xavier stu­dent ac­cused of sex­ual as­sault with­draws from uni­ver­sity

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - NEWS -

A St. Fran­cis Xavier Uni­ver­sity stu­dent ac­cused of sex­ual as­sault has with­drawn from the school, cap­ping a week of con­tro­versy af­ter it was re­vealed he was al­lowed to re­main on cam­pus pend­ing a crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion.

The Antigonish, N.S., school’s pres­i­dent apol­o­gized on Fri­day for how the case was han­dled, and said af­ter “much re­flec­tion and ad­vice” he con­cluded that the stu­dent should leave the uni­ver­sity.

The Toronto-area woman who re­ported the al­le­ga­tions said Fri­day she has “mixed emo­tions” about the out­come, while the ac­cused said in a state­ment that it’s with a “heavy heart” that he vol­un­tar­ily with­drew.

It’s a sit­u­a­tion that un­der­scores the chal­lenge of ad­dress­ing sex­ual-as­sault claims on cam­pus amid the con­tin­u­ing cul­tural reck­on­ing of the #MeToo era.

In a two-page let­ter to the cam­pus com­mu­nity, pres­i­dent Kent

Mac­Don­ald said, “I ac­knowl­edge and ac­cept the fact that we can do bet­ter.”

“In this par­tic­u­lar case, there were clear gaps in com­mu­ni­ca­tion and ap­par­ent is­sues re­lat­ing to our ap­peal pro­cesses that neg­a­tively af­fected our uni­ver­sity com­mu­nity and, in some cases, re­trau­ma­tized vic­tims/sur­vivors,” he said. “For this, I am sorry.”

Mr. Mac­Don­ald’s com­ments come af­ter The Cana­dian Press re­vealed an On­tario woman’s ex­pe­ri­ence re­port­ing an al­leged sex­ual as­sault to the uni­ver­sity.

Although the school launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter the woman came for­ward and found the ac­cused re­spon­si­ble, it set aside its de­ci­sion to sus­pend him the next aca­demic year – with­out no­ti­fy­ing her – when he ap­pealed.

The woman, whose name is un­der a pub­li­ca­tion ban, was dev­as­tated to dis­cover him on cam­pus last month and has since left the uni­ver­sity. In an in­ter­view from her Toron­toarea home, the woman said she’s “happy the school is tak­ing steps to­ward pos­i­tive change.”

“I’m re­ally proud of how the St. F.X. com­mu­nity, the stu­dent body, has ral­lied be­hind this and I’m thank­ful for all the sup­port that’s been shown to me,” she said.

Still, the 19-year-old said the apol­ogy was “a lit­tle late” for her, and she won’t be re­turn­ing to the Nova Sco­tia school.

“It seems like the school only re­acted af­ter there was a neg­a­tive back­lash on so­cial me­dia,” she said. “It’s a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ing it took that for them to re­spond … but it’s still nice to fi­nally get some recog­ni­tion.”

In this par­tic­u­lar case, there were clear gaps in com­mu­ni­ca­tion and ap­par­ent is­sues re­lat­ing to our ap­peal pro­cesses … KENT MAC­DON­ALD

ST. FRAN­CIS XAVIER UNI­VER­SITY PRES­I­DENT

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