TORONTO, Oct. 9, 2013 /CNW/ - The York University Graduate Students' Association (YUGSA), representing 6,100 graduate students at York University, condemns the article 'Fortress York' which appeared in this month's issue of Toronto Life. The article portrays York University as the home of sexual predators and the Jane/Finch neighbourhood as so 'forlorn' and 'seedy' that it 'shock[s]' new students. YUGSA believes that this article sensationalises sexual violence, resorts to highly misleading generalizations, and fails to demystify in any informative way the systemic causes of gender-based violence. Such an approach to journalism serves only to further perpetuate myths around experiences of sexual violence. By painting a false picture of the York campus as an exceptional and unique space of heightened violence, the article fails to address the ways in which gender-based violence permeates everyday life far beyond the campus setting. It also bolsters the myth that such violence is most likely to be inflicted by 'outsiders', ignoring the reality that perpetrators are very often not strangers to the survivors of sexual violence. Moreover, the article's association of 'outsiders' with members of the Jane and Finch neighbourhood reflects and perpetuates deeply racist assumptions that equate this vibrant and diverse community with crime and violence, demonizing a community that York students, faculty and staff call home.
Not surprisingly, the article has attracted the attention of the York University Presidents' Office (http://yfile.news.yorku.ca/2013/09/17/presidential-response-to-a-toronto-life-article-published-in-the-october-2013-issue/). While YUGSA agrees with much of the response put forward by President Shoukri, we also believe that the university's approach to addressing the issue of sexual violence has so far been inadequate. As a student union that is committed to working towards a safer campus, we urge the administration to fully implement the recommendations of the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC) safety audit conducted in 2010 (http://safety.yorku.ca/files/2013/01/METRAC-Audit-Report.pdf). While the administration has so far made important steps in meeting the audit's recommendations related to the campus's physical environment and on improving existing security measures, we believe that the implementation of the much-needed systemic changes recommended by METRAC continues to remain inadequate. We urge York University to complement its efforts so far with a more prevention-based approach to sexual violence that goes beyond response-driven solutions, securitization on campus, and the associated practices of racial profiling. We will continue to advocate for concrete strategies that address both the immediate and root causes of violence, as well as greater campus-wide training and education on sexual violence and increased access to services and programs for survivors of violence.
YUGSA also extends an invitation to all members of the York community to attend events at our upcoming Sexual Violence Awareness Week, taking place between December 2-6, 2013. Please check our website for updates on this and other initiatives: www.yugsa.ca.
SOURCE: YORK UNIVERSITY GRADUATE STUDENTS' ASSOCIATION
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