Trigger Warning: The following article references date rape and rape culture.
A recent University of British Columbia graduate and student in the Explore program at the Université du Trois Rivières campus in Québec is denouncing the rape culture that exists around the French language program.
A statement from Kyla Jamieson reads:
I left the program at UQTR after staff members performed a date rape drug skit that was triggering and completely inappropriate (the punchline was that the would-be rapist found one girl too unattractive to try to rape her). I have described this skit in greater detail here: http://explorerapeculture.
When asked about the skit and my complaint, Daniel Lavoie, the Director of the École Internationale de Français at UQTR, said that I “misunderstood the intention of the skit.” This is false–one intention of the skit was clearly to be funny–and also assumes that intention is more relevant than impact.
In order to hold the administration at UQTR accountable for how they educate students about sexual assault, Explore students started a petition on July 23; it already has 295 signatures (http://www.ipetitions.com/
It concerns me that the Explore program in general, as it is not centralized on one campus, has no policies in place around education and staff training w/r/t sexual assault. Louis Lizotte, the director of CMEC (Council of Ministers of Education, Canada) has said that UQTR will review its approach to educating students about sexual assault, but when I asked administration to do exactly this their response was that they didn’t know how, which makes me wonder whether their new approach will be any less problematic. (The administration at UQTR told me that if I wanted them to educate program participants, say, by showing a video about consent, during one of the assemblies–to counteract the impressions about rape the skit created–I would have to find a video for them, because they don’t know how (I did provide videos; they weren’t shown). When I insisted that they provide resources to survivors of sexual assault, they provided information for one resource that is available only in French, though French is not a first language of 95% of the program participants.)
I was also told that CMEC will speak to Explore coordinators and directors to ensure sexual assault policies are in place at every campus where the Explore program runs. I think it is probably safe to assume that all of these campuses already have some kind of sexual assault policy in place; thus, this “action” is simply business as usual. Mr. Lizotte has not replied to my inquiry about whether these policies will have to meet any standard; I am worried that CMEC will not establish any standards, and will neither hold the UQTR administration accountable nor provide any resources for responsible policy building/education/training.
The Explore program is federally funded and, based on my estimates, brings in over one million dollars at UQTR each spring/summer. The UQTR administration is understandably invested in saving face and holding onto its funding; unfortunately, they seem much more interested in doing these two things than in doing anything to improve the learning environment they are paid one million dollars to provide.
If nothing else I think that students considering the Explore program should be aware of these issues and be able to take the track records of particular campuses’ Explore programs’ attitudes concerning sexual assault into account when they are deciding where to participate in the program. Explore students need to know that Explore administrators might ignore or deny their reports of sexual assault, and they need to know that that is unacceptable.
I have created a Tumblr blog to share information about this situation: http://explorerapeculture.