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A St. Francis Xavier University student accused of sexual assault has withdrawn from the school, capping a week of controversy after it was revealed he was allowed to remain on campus pending a criminal prosecution.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