Dear Kent and Andrew

October 16, 2018

Dr. Kent MacDonald, President and Vice-Chancellor 

St. Francis Xavier University

Mr. Andrew Beckett, Vice-President Finance & Administration, Head of Student Services

St. Francis Xavier University

Dear Kent and Andrew,

Recent press reports have brought to light the StFX handling of the sexual assault case of a woman student. We, the undersigned faculty, are deeply committed to insisting on the solution-focused change that is necessary to decrease and halt the sexualized violence culture at StFX. We are specifically speaking to the experiences of women faculty. Collectively, we have taught at StFX for over several hundred years. Many of us have, along with students and staff, consistently born witness to students’ accounts of being sexually assaulted and harassed. As faculty, listening to even the generalities of these harrowing and violent stories, and helping students navigate possible paths to justice, has involved an exceptional amount of emotional labour—a burden that we bear in honour of our students. However, the time has come to shift this burden of responsibility to the StFX Administrative level. Although we very much appreciate Administrative efforts thus far, we wish to avoid the policy hamster wheel that may result when flawed policies, however well intentioned, are ‘reviewed’, rather than replaced with evidence and expertise-informed documents. In this case, expertise-informed can be defined as it generally is in an academic setting—individuals with long-standing and recognized (i.e., inside and well outside the confines of X) content and policy expertise in a specified area. To this end, we expect the following specific solutions. These solutions are closely informed by the student and community member gatherings that took place last week, and the student-led petition that was initiated yesterday.

1. Initiate a Community Forum within two weeks (by Oct 30), so that you too can hear students, faculty, staff, and community members’ perspectives on this issue.

2. Immediately (as of Oct 16), initiate an Anonymized Sexual Assault Reporting System, whereby the campus community are informed of the occurrence of sexual assaults on campus. There are policy templates from universities in Canada and in the US. The time is well past for X to step up.

3. Create a Sexualized Violence Task Force at StFX by December 1, 2018. Members must include: 

a) at least three experts in sexualized violence and trauma-and-violence-informed policy-making (these experts are readily available in the Antigonish Community and among faculty at StFX); 

b) at least three student survivors of sexual assault at X (students are already well organized to provide first voice expertise); 

c) the President of the Students Union; 

d) the President of the University; 

e) the Human Rights and Equity Advisor; and, 

f) the Head of Student Services.

The purpose of the Task Force is to inform policy change—to provide a cohesive voice that can rectify fragmented approaches to sexualized violence, where numerous, and not necessarily congruent, documents, approaches, and policies are implemented at X. Although these approaches provide a ‘suite’ of options for students at X who have been sexually assaulted, there is substantive evidence that in times of extreme trauma such as sexual assault, service fragmentation is decidedly re-traumatizing. The mandate of the Task Force is the mapping of all existing sexual assault related policies and the timely creation of a new and evidence-informed approach to sexual assault at StFX.

The resulting approach must:

a. Pass the test of being trauma-and-violence-informed (see expertise comments above).

b. Circumvent the current maze that traumatized students must navigate.

c. Provide clear mandates for training and education in sexual assault and trauma-and-violence informed policy-making. Currently, there is no expectation that any individuals involved in policy-making, reporting and appeals processes have any core education to guide their decisionmaking. An ‘interest’ in the issues, and/or institutionally mandated membership in a group or panel, does not necessarily constitute capacity to make evidence informed decisions.

d. Be congruent with the Canadian Criminal Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As evidenced by recent events, there may be a disconnect between X policies, such as the Community Code of Conduct, and these two pivotal federal documents. It is important to note that university processes are ‘quasi-judicial’, not judicial; therefore, although they of course must adhere to the laws of the land, they can be changed in-house, to reflect more up-to-date processes and procedures that are already in place at other universities.

4. Create and strictly maintain a Sexualized Violence Report Card for the StFX Community. This Report Card would trace/track incidences of Sexual Assault, and StFX responses, and outcomes. The purpose of the Card is also to inform progressive, evidence informed policy change.

We are copying the Deans of all Faculties at StFX because we know that sexualized violence is hampering the academic mission of the university in its profound impact on the everyday academic performance of the numbers of students who have been sexually harassed and assaulted.

We stand with her. We will not be silenced.


Dr. Elizabeth McGibbon, Professor

Dr. Rachel Hurst, Associate Professor

Dr. Rhonda Semple, Associate Professor

Dr. Donna Trembinski, Associate Professor

Dr. Ranke Devries. Associate Professor

Dr. Erika Koch, Associate Professor

Dr. Mary Oxner, Professor

Dr. Sharon Gregory, Associate Professor

Dr. Margo Watt, Professor

Dr. Erin Austin, Associate Professor

Dr. Donna Halperin, Professor

Dr. Christina Holmes, Assistant Professor

Dr. Linda Darwish, Associate Professor

Dr. Maria Paz, Associate Professor

Dr. Amanda Casey, Associate Professor

Dr. Ornella Nzindukiyimana, Assistant Professor

Dr. Maureen Coady, Associate Professor

Prof. Sionnach Lukeman, Assistant Professor

Prof. Jacqueline Van Wijlen, Assistant Professor

Dr. Isabelle Bauge, Associate Professor

Dr. Angela Weaver, Associate Professor

Dr. Jen Jamieson, Associate Professor

Prof. Marion Alex, Associate Professor

Dr. Joanne Tompkins, Professor

Prof. Marie Arnott, Assistant Professor

Dr. Karine LeBris. Associate Professor

Dr. Katarin Macleod, Associate Professor

Dr. Jennifer Mitton, Associate Professor

Dr. Laurie Stanley-Blackwell, Professor

Dr. Lynda Harling-Stalker, Associate Professor

Dr. Claire Fawcett, Associate Professor

Dr. Norine Verberg, Associate Professor

Dr. Sue Vincent, Professor

Dr. Tara Taylor, Associate Professor

Dr. Jessica Husk, Assistant Professor

Dr. Johanna Black, Assistant Professor

Dr. Kailin Wright, Associate Professor

Dr. Melanie Lam, Assistant Professor

Dr. Patricia Cormack, Professor

Dr. Nancy Forestell, Professor

Dr. Rejeanne LeBlanc, Associate Professor

Dr. Kim McLean, Associate Professor

Dr. Karen Blair, Assistant Professor

Dr. Katie Edwards, Assistant Professor

Dr. Charlene Weaving, Professor

Dr. Christie Lomore, Associate Professor

Dr. Laura Estill, Associate Professor

Dr. Riley Chisholm, Associate Professor

Dr. Maureen Moynagh, Professor

Dr. Leona English, Professor

Dr. Catherine Aubrecht, Assistant Professor

Dr. Doris Gillis, Professor

c: Dr. Petra Hauf, Dean of Science; 

Dr. Karen Brebner, Dean of Arts; 

Dr. Tim Hynes, Dean of Business;

Dr. Jeff Orr, Dean of Education