British Columbia

Male student investigated for 3 alleged sex assaults at SFU

Officials at Simon Fraser University have confirmed they are investigating a male student after three female students reported they were sexually assaulted this year.

SFU says individual is no longer on campus.

Simon Fraser University is investigating a male student after three female students reported they were sexually assaulted this year. (Flickr/Lawrence)

Police and officials at Simon Fraser University have confirmed they are investigating a male student after three female students reported they were sexually assaulted this year.

University spokesperson Kurt Heinrich said the alleged incidents took place during the 2016 spring semester.

"We know of three allegations of sexual assault that were made last semester by female students against one male student, and all three incidents were reported to police," Heinrich said.

He wouldn't confirm if the suspect is still an SFU student, but noted that the individual is no longer on campus.

The Burnaby, B.C. university, which also has campuses in Vancouver and Surrey, is the latest to grapple with alleged sexual assaults involving students, after the University of B.C. and University of Victoria faced accusations they had mishandled reports of attacks.

SFU cites privacy issues

In a statement, vice-president of academic and provost Jon Driver said that as soon as university personnel became aware of the allegations, it took action to support the students concerned, without interfering with the police investigation.

Driver said the RCMP and the university conducted safety assessments, and measures were taken to ensure the safety of the campus community.

But it is unclear if any public notice was issued to students.

Heinrich said the university can't release details of the allegations because of privacy issues and the ongoing investigation.

"These cases are incredibly complex," Heinrich said. "Our priority has always been and always will be, the safety and support of our students to ensure that anybody who has been impacted by something like this is supported."

Burnaby RCMP released a statement saying they're investigating the allegations but provided no further details.

Retired Women's Studies professor Marjorie Griffin Cohen said she was approached by the alleged victim, a teenage female. (CBC)

Despite university assurances that student safety was a paramount concern, one professor criticized the administration's reaction, describing it as "indifferent."

Retired professor Marjorie Griffin Cohen, professor emeritus of political science and gender, sexuality and women's studies, told CBC News she was approached by one of the alleged victims, an 18-year-old living away from home for the first time.

Professor criticizes SFU response

Griffin Cohen, who is a member of a group called Academic Women, a network of female academics, said she pushed the SFU administration for action, adding she was told the suspect was living in the dorm.

"I think it's an administration that knows nothing about it, nothing about the issues and was fairly indifferent," she said.

"It seemed to me quite extraordinary that the person who was alleged to have raped someone was still in a dorm with this woman,"

Under new legislation, universities across B.C. have until May of 2017 to come up with a strategic plan to deal with sexual assault.

"I think the university did not have the expertise it needed to protect these young women and it reacted very, very late," Griffin Cohen added.

"And it appears only now is there an attempt to put in a real policy, I assume as a result of the provincial legislation."

She added: "It seemed to me really important that the university react to protect these young women and to protect further attacks like this."

With files by Farrah Merali, Liam Britten and Canadian Press

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