Blink and you missed it

You would have needed to be a micro-biologist to notice the story in Thursday’s National Post about Canadian universities warning their students about local sex offenders. The story was available to “subscribers only” on the websites, and when I Googled the story I came up empty.

So what’s important here? That Queen’s University e-mailed 16,000 students about the release of a convicted rapist in the campus area is not big news; Queens has had an alert protocol system in place for quite some time to warn students about potentially dangerous characters on the loose at their campus. But the University of Saskatchewan?

This is news. Recall that last winter U of S was battling a controversy in which a young student was raped in a campus washroom by a sex offender well known to the community. This, after another student had been similarly assaulted by a different offender earlier last Summer. The School was criticized for not taking steps to adequately warn their student body about problems on campus with sex offenders.

After her offender was caught, one of the women in the U of S rapes went public and proceeded with charges against him. From there the story only got worse… for the victim. The School refused to admit any wrongdoing in the events. The press made suggestions that the woman had fabricated the story. Eventually, the police capitulated and began to doubt the victim (despite the fact that their was DNA evidence (ie: sperm) to back up her claim). Humiliated, the victim dropped all charges, withdrew from the University of Saskatchewan, and found solace in the arms of her parents – who never doubted her.

So what are we to make of it now, as another school year is about to begin at the University of Saskatchewan that administration is now taking the pre-emptive position of warning students of potential problems with sex offenders released in the campus area?

I would call it a victory for that victim who was raped last winter in the campus washroom – a little late, bittersweet, but satisfying nonetheless. I applaud University of Saskatchewan administration for having the decency to change and develop new safety alert procedures. Bravo U of S. Now if we could only convince some other Canadian Universities to become equally courageous on the subject of safety and security on campus.

For those of you who missed it, here is the entire National Post article:

Universities warn their students of sex offenders

Photos e-mailed to all

Siri Agrell and Dan Kinvig National Post and The StarPhoenix

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Students at two Canadian universities received e-mails this week containing the names and faces of convicted rapists.The messages were sent to students at Queen’s University in Kingston and the University of Saskatchewan by the schools’ administration, in an effort tomake students aware of potential danger on campus.

On Tuesday, Queen’s officials sent 16,000 registered students an e-mail containing a police news release, warning that a convicted sex offender had been released to a halfway house near the university.A 22-year-old man arrested in 2000 for sexually assaulting six women near York University was released in the area last week, putting Queen’s, two colleges and many high schools on high alert.

“That’s really weird,” third-year Queen’s student Robert McGroarty said upon seeing the e-mail.Even though security is an issue at the school, which is located nearseveral federal penitentiaries, he does not think it was necessary for thealert to be sent to the student body. “It gets people more scared than they need to be,” Mr. McGroarty said.”Idon’t know if it’s the university’s responsibility to alert us about something like that. He’s not in residence, so it’s not really a Queen’s “issue.”

Queen’s director of campus security, Dave Patterson, said the department’s Web site received several thousand hits by students looking for more information.

The University of Saskatchewan also issued a safety alert this week after aman convicted of a sexual assault at the university reappeared on campuslast month in breach of his probation.A photograph and description of Rodney Alexander Johnson, 25, was posted last Thursday on the university’s new safety alert boards in the

entrancesof main buildings. Johnson’s description was also e-mailed to all

university staff and students.”If you see this man on campus, please do not

approach him,” the e-mail read.


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