Student accused of sexual assault withdraws
A St. Francis Xavier University student accused of sexual assault has withdrawn from the school, capping a week of controversy after it was revealed he was allowed to remain on campus pending a criminal prosecution.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“The student has withdrawn, effective immediately,’’ Kent MacDonald said in two-page letter to the campus community.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.