A Commerce Undergraduate Society (CUS) referendum on whether to spend $200,000 over the next two years on sexual assault education and counselling services in response to the Sauder FROSH rape cheer has failed.
During a press conference in mid-September, Sauder School of Business dean Robert Helsley pledged this $250,000, of which $50,000 — the maximum amount that can be allocated for a single unbudgeted project — would be provided by the CUS board. The additional $200,000 had to go to a vote by Sauder students before it could be given.
Yesterday, Helsley issued a statement addressing the rejection of the referendum.
“I was deeply disappointed to learn that the referendum … was unsuccessful. I know that the wider community will be disappointed as well,” the statement said.
According to CUS president Sean Fleming, the CUS board of directors thought the programs would have been “a positive step forward” for their student society.
“But we are ultimately democratically elected by our students and run under democratic processes that allow students to have their voice heard on these issues, and we are going to respect their decision,” said Fleming.
Fleming said the original $50,000 pledged by the CUS will still be used to support initiatives to promote awareness of sexual abuse.
“We’re still working with our different campus partners, including the AMS, to see how to best develop that money, and to make the most positive impact here on campus,” Fleming said.
In his statement, Helsley listed a number of other measures that will be introduced, including a new orientation program to replace the CUS-led FROSH, training with the AMS Sexual Assault Support Center for CUS leaders and curriculum changes that will promote ethics, gender and cultural sensitivity understanding.
Approximately 26 per cent of Sauder undergrads voted in the referendum, and nearly 70 per cent voted against spending $200,000 on the proposed programs. Had the referendum been passed, $52 of CUS students’ tuition fees would have gone toward sexual abuse services.
Third-year Sauder student Aaron Yeung thought the services could have been well used. “This is a very difficult topic to talk about,” he said. “As a male, I don’t have to worry about [sexual assault] on a day-to-day basis, but considering all the sexual assaults that have been occurring, I do think that some sort of program would help with that as well.”
“It’s very difficult to put a price on these things,” said Amanda Jones, a second-year Sauder student. “For example, if one case of sexual abuse was prevented by this program, can we say it’s worth it? As a member of the Commerce Undergraduate Society, though, I have full support for the appropriate committees to make the right choices with our budget.”