Area of focus that should be paid attention to before single-gendered residences
I understand that there are “various types of violence and conduct issues that have existed and continue to occur in these sorority/fraternity style residences” but I think it is incorrect to assume that single-gender residences perpetrate a greater number of acts of violence and conduct issues than other co-ed residences do. I am glad to hear that the Students’ Union “will be advocating the University that they provide students with the empirical evidence that supports this move, in a way that does not compromise the confidentiality of any students/individuals involved” and I patiently await further statements from StFX pertaining to this decision.
However, I feel that I need to make known my opinion that keeping the single-gender residence option offers more benefits than the university has considered. I can only speak for myself and from my own personal experience, having lived in a single-gender residence for two consecutive years, one of which I was fortunate enough to spend as the Vice President. I see all-female residence as a place where I felt safe being surrounded by women, and I am sure that other women living in Chillis/TNT feel the same. I believe that the unique environment found in single-gender residences offers people who are affected by acts of sexual violence a space where they can be surrounded by people who make them feel safe, and I strongly believe that this support system is what allows victims of assault to become more comfortable coming forward and reporting their assault.
I think the larger issue in respect to handling sexual assault is that people arrive on campus still needing to be educated about consent, but I believe the school is partly responsible for mishandling the conversation about sexual assault and only enforcing proper training as a result of what has happened this year. I don’t think making these residences co-ed will change that, as assault occurs just as easily in co-ed residence. To rehash my points from earlier, I do not believe that single-gender residences have a higher incidence of sexual violence and assault than any other residence on campus, but unlike the other residences they offer a uniquely supportive environment that gives everyone the encouragement and strength they need.
Removing single-gender residences would not lessen the number of assaults that occur on our campus, but it would erase this existing support system that has helped students to find their voice, thoroughly reversing any progress that has been made in furthering discussion and education about sexualized violence on campus. Furthermore, while the university plans to offer ONE all-female floor in MacIssac, what are the males in our community who are looking for the same experience meant to do?
Both MacKinnon and Cameron Halls act as safe spaces for women and men alike. These spaces allow for open, frank conversations about subjects such as sexual violence, misogyny, gender issues, etcetera, that are often difficult to broach. But, in doing so, I believe residents develop a shared understanding and respect for one another that I don’t know would happen otherwise. Therefore, I find it hard to see how single gendered residences are continuing “an environment that has jeopardized the safety of students.”
Finally, I feel that the decision made by the university in accordance with their “10-year plan with the goal of creating welcoming, comfortable and safe residential experiences for students” does not allow for the consideration that residences have evolved and changed from what they used to be. In this era of social change, the all-male residences have actively been trying to better themselves and the community’s perception of their residence. Examples of this initiative can be seen in some residences' implementation of mandatory Bring in the Bystander training for all residents, as well as positive space training, and encouraging residents to attend all scheduled talks offered by StFX that focus on topics such as sexual violence, among other issues faced on campus.