Inspired by a Brock professor’s research project, students are aiming to change the way universities approach sexual assault education.
With the help of Dr. Margot Francis, a Assistant Professor in Women’s and Gender Studies, a group of Brock students are hosting the Decolonize and Deconstruct symposium later this week.
“The idea [for the symposium] originated from Margot Francis’s research project which focused on the racialized and queer students’ experiences in relation to support services at Brock,” said Tegh Dhindsa, the Workshop Coordinator for the Brock Student Justice Centre. “Dr. Francis’s findings clearly show that students are experiencing systemic gaps and that there is an intense need to diversify Brock’s services, to voice student perspectives, and to educate faculty and staff to create a systemic change.”
Dhindsa stated that the purpose of the two-day symposium will be to create a dialogue that represents the perspectives of various people, but with a specific focus on BIPOC’s (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) voices because there are gaps that exist within bystander training and other services provided at Brock and on Canadian university campuses in general.
Therefore, the event will aim to acknowledge any misrepresentations and setbacks in Brock’s sexual assault education services.
“[This symposium] will focus on deconstructing the whiteness, cisgenderism and heterosexism that is built into these systems and services that result in them not being accessible to many marginalized people,” said Dhindsa.
The symposium will begin March 30 with a 101 Introductory Event from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The evening will begin by featuring various student panelists describing their experiences and perspectives on more inclusive approaches to sexuality and consent education, including topics such as gender violence and mental health.
“As a woman of colour, a survivor, and a student, I feel that sexual assault education is lacking at Brock,” said Dhindsa. “I have experienced the systemic gaps at Brock first hand, and it has impacted my own mental health quite a bit.”
Following Thursday’s introductory event, Friday will provide participants with a full day of panel and small group discussions, presentations and workshops.
“Students are what make this institution and for that reason, I think it is important for students to attend this event because these systemic gaps, directly and indirectly, affect them,” said Dhindsa. “Students’ voices need to be heard, and this event provides them with an opportunity to be a part of a change at Brock and gives them a chance to learn about resources in case they or someone they know ever needs them.”
Last year a Brock professor was accused of sexually assaulting a student. Since, multiple Brock students have asked the university to improve its sexual assault practices and policies.
“It is so important for institutions to recognize that students have experienced various types of sexual violence and that these students need resources to help with the healing process,” said Dhindsa.
The Decolonize and Deconstruct symposium will run from March 30 to 31. It is free for all students who register online. For a complete list of speakers for all of the events, as well as the details on the topics/registration and timings, visit decolonizedeconstruct.ca