York U student to use mediation to raise issues with university sexual violence policy

Mandi Gray poses for a portrait in Toronto on Friday, July 15, 2016.
Mandi Gray poses for a portrait in Toronto on Friday, July 15, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO — A student who filed a human rights complaint against an Ontario university after she was sexually assaulted by another student says the school’s new guidelines for responding to sexual violence fall short.

Mandi Gray, a 28-year-old York University PhD student, was attacked in January 2015. A fellow student, Mustafa Ururyar, was found guilty of sexually assaulting Gray earlier this year and is appealing his conviction.

In addition to the criminal proceedings, Gray also filed a complaint against York University at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in June 2015, claiming the school lacked clear procedures for reporting assaults.

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Gray alleged that by failing to have sexual assault-specific policies, procedures and protocols to respond to reports of sexual assault committed by its students and staff, the university discriminated against her as a woman, and as a sexual assault survivor.

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“I’m not bringing this forward just for me as an individual. If I wanted to do that I could have walked away with damages, like a cash settlement, months ago,” Gray said of her complaint. “I’m doing this for future students and for current students and faculty who experience sexual assault.”

In the time since Gray filed her complaint with the human rights tribunal, which has the power to order policy changes, York released interim guidelines for responding to sexual violence. They include the introduction of a Sexual Violence Response Office and a policy that police would only be notified about alleged incidents with the consent of alleged victims, unless there is an imminent safety risk to the community.

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But Gray is taking issue with the guidelines – released in September – and plans to air her concerns at a mediation session with the university organized by the human rights tribunal on Wednesday.

“They’re making these really symbolic changes but they’re not changing the structure,” she said. “I’m hoping the formality of this process will push them to listen to survivors of sexual assault.”

Gray alleges that the Sexual Violence Response Office, for instance, does not have sufficient staff with specific expertise to deal with disclosures of sexual assault.

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She also says that all students, including those who may have experienced alleged sexual assaults and are involved in the legal system, should have access to counselling services at the university.

READ MORE: Toronto man accused of sexually assaulting York University grad student found guilty

A spokeswoman for York University said the institution looks forward to participating in the mediation process with Gray.

Barbara Joy said consultation meetings on the university’s new guidelines are currently underway with groups that include student governments, university departments and staff associations.

“Any input we receive, including a submission by Ms. Gray, will be included for careful consideration,” Joy said. “The goal is to achieve the best possible policy and supports for the York community.”

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Joy also said the Sexual Violence Response Office is meant to be the first point of contact for those who have experienced sexual violence and will support all members of the university community.

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Gray’s case could head to a hearing if it isn’t resolved in mediation.

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