Nathalie Des Rosiers and Sonya Nigam

Nathalie Des Rosiers and Sonya Nigam will examine reports of sexual violence during Western’s Orientation Week this fall.

Western University appointed two co-leads to conduct an independent review into the reports of gender-based and sexual violence  from September’s Orientation Week. 

Nathalie Des Rosiers and Sonya Nigam will investigate “events that transpired on campus, off campus and online during the weekend of Sept. 10 to11.” President Alan Shepard said in December’s university Senate meeting that the review will focus on reports from Medway-Sydenham Hall residence. 

Unlike the ongoing police investigation, the independent review will aim to identify gaps in university policies and procedures and carve out recommendations. Police have not given any updates on their investigation since September, when they announced three reports of sexual assault and one arrest, none of which were related to the Med-Syd allegations.

A student who alleges she was sexually assaulted — her account corroborated by a witness who freed her — and other students who say they witnessed girls drugged on campus have provided harrowing accounts of a terrifying Orientation Week at Western University.

“[We aim to] see whether there are any gaps in communication, who saw what, who did what, to the extent that we can do that, whether the policies that were in place at the time were sufficient and what the recommendations are so it doesn’t happen again,” said Des Rosiers. 

According to Des Rosiers, the review will begin conducting interviews in early January. Des Rosiers and her co-lead Nigam will choose the interview subjects, reaching out to some directly, though there will also be ways for other members of the community to reach out and share any knowledge they have. 

“We will want for sure the ability for students and staff to reach out directly in a confidential manner. We want to make it as easy and comfortable for people to reach out,” said Des Rosiers. “I hope that students will want to participate. [We intend to] make sure that we are available to listen to what people saw, what people experienced.” 

President Shepard said in the December meeting of the Senate, he believes Des Rosiers and Nigam’s combination of skills, knowledge and experience is an asset in the investigation. 

Des Rosiers, a former Western law professor and the current principal of Massey College at the University of Toronto, boasts both legal and post-secondary leadership experience. Nigam, as the executive coordinator for the Canadian Association for the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment in Higher Education, brings an equitable and inclusive lens to the issue.

The independent review is one of several steps the university is taking to address the issue of sexual and gender-based violence on campus, including the launch of mandatory prevention training for all students in residence, an action committee on SGBV and new residence health and safety advisors.

Des Rosiers said her and Nigam’s team will aim to make recommendations to the university as early as possible, though the investigation has no current timeline.

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News Editor

Rebekah Rodrigues is a News Editor for volume 114. Email her at rebekah.rodrigues@westerngazette.ca

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