UBC students vote against $200,000 sexual assault counselling fund

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UBC Aerial | Wreck Beach | University of British Columbia

UBC’s business students have rejected a previous commitment to spend $200,000 on sexual assault counselling in response to September’s Frosh rape chant controversy.

The large expense required UBC’s Commerce Undergraduate Society (CUS) to hold a student referendum, however, the October ballot results were overwhelmingly against the reconciliation and education fund that business student leaders had promised to both UBC and business faculty officials.

Of the 815 ballots cast, only 245 voted in favour of the fund that would be spent over the next three years. Student voter turnout was just 25.8 per cent, even though student leaders actively encouraged the faculty’s students to vote. The CUS warned that a failure to initiate robust action could further harm the business school’s reputation and create a public perception that UBC’s business students are indifferent over the issue of sexual assault.

The “no” vote also coincides with the recent public safety crisis on campus in wake of six attacks on woman at night. Police are still looking for the offender at large.

Despite the rejection by students, following today’s referendum results, UBC and the Sauder School of Business announced that remaining $200,000 for the business school’s sexual assault education program will be funded regardless. University officials had hoped that the CUS would play its part, but instead the funds will come directly from the school’s administration.

The CUS was asked to spend $250,000 in student funds on counselling as part of the recommendations that came out of the university’s report on the Frosh week rape chant that included lyrics such as “Y-O-U-N-G at UBC, we like ’em young… N is for No Consent, U is for Underage.”

Student leaders were able to commit $50,000 immediately, but the remaining $200,000 required student body approval.

“What we saw throughout the referendum process was an incredible interest from students in contributing to the creation of a safer, more supportive campus atmosphere, and a lot of different perspectives on how to do that in the most meaningful way possible” said Sean Fleming, recently elected CUS President. “Students really wanted to participate more in the response, rather than simply contributing financial support, as they recognize this is a long term, community-wide issue and they wanted the response to reflect that.”

“These are ongoing issues here on campus and we will continue to seek ways that we can make an impact in addressing them, both as an organization and as individuals” Fleming said. “The CUS takes these issues very seriously and is dedicated to ensuring positive change occurs on campus.”

Image: Josef Hanus / Shutterstock

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