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Brock University students demand resignations in sexual harassment case

The professor is "no longer assigned to a class," but students at Brock University demonstrated on campus Tuesday over what they said was the botched handling of a sexual harassment finding.

Protest follows CBC News investigation into university handling of sexual harassment finding

Protesters at Brock University on Tuesday issued a list of demands for the university, including a "student-centred" sexual assault policy and the resignations of both the professor in question and the administrator who handled the complaint. (Lori Ward/CBC)

About 60 people attended a demonstration Tuesday at Brock University, demanding action after a CBC News investigation revealed the university attempted to silence a student who was sexually harassed by a professor. 

"Shame on Brock," they chanted, many waving signs. "We want justice!" 

The students said their demands include that the accused professor resign, the administrator who handled the complaint resign and that the university hire a dedicated sexual assault administrator.

University president Jack Lightstone came to the demonstration and accepted a signed statement from students. 

Protestors at Brock University called for action from the university after a CBC News investigation revealed a student was told to keep quiet after a sexual harassment finding. (Lori Ward/CBC)
A CBC investigation last week revealed that Brock had warned a former student to keep quiet about an internal investigation that determined her professor, David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, gave her alcohol and tried to force himself on her sexually.

After the story was published, the university said that a professor who was found to have sexually harassed one of his students late one night in his office is no longer "assigned to a class and is not on campus."

Carissa Taylor, one of the student organizers, said she was "horrified" by the situation. 

"It's our view that as soon as an investigation was launched and a complaint was made, he should've been off with pay to ensure that the campus was a safe working and learning environment for people who go here," she said. 

"Once the investigation found that he was in fact guilty, the university should've taken very quick actions to make sure that he was properly penalized."

Schimmelpenninck van der Oye told the investigator hired by Brock that he was too drunk to remember what had happened, but in the end the final report confirmed the allegations made by the student and recommended the professor face discipline.

CBC News asked Schimmelpenninck van der Oye for an interview, but he did not return emails.

University responds

On Tuesday, the university formally responded to the student protest.

Brock University president Jack Lightstone greeted student demonstrators on Tuesday and accepted a signed statement from them. (CBC)
"Public demonstrations like the one that took place at Brock University today help raise awareness of the need for more effective ways of helping survivors of sexual harassment and violence," the university said in a statement.

"Universities are no more immune to these types of incidents than any other workplace in Canada."

The university said its sexual assault committee is "developing a new stand-alone policy" focused on sexual harassment and violence. 

"Brock has been receptive to, and mindful of, all concerns raised about how we have responded to this issue, and the university will be reviewing its current policies and processes," the university said. 

Asked whether the university would terminate the professor or whether he would resign, Lightstone said, "I'm not going to answer that."

'I have to go give my voice to it as well'

Ashley-Rose Cliffe, a student at nearby Niagara College, was among the protesters. 

"[Administrators] always want to just stay silent and pretend it doesn't happen," she said. "And when I got off the bus from school today I saw it and I was like you know what, 'Enough's enough. I have to go give my voice to it as well.'" 

The students who organized the demonstration said in a statement that they demand the updated policy be "student-centred" and address "power imbalances."

"The policy and procedures should be made accessible to students, including clear guidelines about who to speak with and possible outcomes of complaints," they said.

"We feel let down by Brock's response to this case, but believe that by implementing our demands, Brock can once again become a leader in challenging sexual assault and rape culture on university campuses."

For confidential tips on this story, please contact Timothy Sawa at timothy.sawa@cbc.ca or 647-382-7789, or Lori Ward at lori.ward@cbc.ca or via CBC Secure