Stu­dent ac­cused of sex­ual as­sault with­draws

Cape Breton Post - - Province -

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 school’s pres­i­dent apol­o­gized Fri­day for how the case was han­dled, and said af­ter “much re­flec­tion and ad­vice’’ he con­cluded the stu­dent should leave the univer­sity.

“The stu­dent has with­drawn, ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately,’’ Kent MacDon­ald said in two-page let­ter to the cam­pus com­mu­nity.

“I ac­knowl­edge and ac­cept the fact that we can do bet­ter,’’ he said. “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 vic­tim/ sur­vivors.’’

MacDon­ald added: “For this, I am sorry.’’

His com­ments come af­ter The Cana­dian Press re­vealed a Toronto-area 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.

Court doc­u­ments show the man was charged with sex­ual as­sault and re­leased on con­di­tions, in­clud­ing not to con­tact the com­plainant and to stay away from her res­i­dence or place of work. A pre­lim­i­nary in­quiry is set for Nov. 29.

The sit­u­a­tion has drawn at­ten­tion to how post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions han­dle sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions, and whether poli­cies aimed at tack­ling sex­ual vi­o­lence go far enough. It also high­lights a grow­ing de­sire for change on univer­sity cam­puses amidst the on­go­ing cul­tural reck­on­ing of the #MeToo era.

MacDon­ald, also vice-chan­cel­lor of St. FX, al­luded to the broader so­cial sit­u­a­tion, say­ing the univer­sity ap­pre­ci­ates the con­tin­ued com­mu­nity en­gage­ment as it nav­i­gates “this very com­plex, and long-stand­ing so­ci­etal is­sue.’’

In or­der to im­prove the univer­sity’s poli­cies, MacDon­ald said there will be a re­view of the school’s dis­ci­plinary code as it re­lates to ap­peals.

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