Campus activists who bantered about raping the president of the University of Ottawa student union are threatening to sue her after their comments were distributed to others in the campus community.
Early last month, Student Federation of the University of Ottawa president Anne-Marie Roy received screenshots of a chat that took place among several of her political opponents. In the chat, which took place during the most recent campus elections, five male students joke about orally and anally raping Roy in the student union offices, call her a “shit-eater,” and exchange other scatological and sexual taunts at her expense.
Roy went on to win the election.
As a blogger at The Belle Jar put it,
“This is the type of thing that’s said about women in positions of power – not a critique of their policies, but a threat of sexual violence. Not a comment on how they do their job, but graphic fantasies about how they should be sexually degraded. Nothing about their intelligence or capability, just a string of jokes about how riddled with venereal disease they are. This is misogyny, pure and simple. This is slut-shaming. This is rape culture.”
The students, two of whom sit on the Student Federation board with Roy, have not denied the veracity of the screenshots. Although the five initially sent Roy a letter of apology, three — Bart Tremblay, Alexandre Giroux and Michel Fournier-Simard — have said that they are contemplating legal action in response to the distribution of the images. A motion to condemn the students that was brought forward at last week’s meeting of the Federation board was tabled after Roy was served with what one student newspaper called “a cease and desist letter…telling her to not distribute the content of the emails.”
Update | I wrote last year about the need for student organizations to develop robust policies on sexual harassment. While it’s not clear that this incident, which involved a private conversation, would be covered under such a policy, the importance of creating them is always worth reiterating.
March 2 Update | The four men who were elected representatives in the student federation or its clubs have resigned their positions. In a statement released today Anne-Marie Roy said that as far as she is aware, the three who had threatened to sue are still contemplating legal action. You can read Roy’s lengthy and compelling statement here.
March 4 Update | The students have apparently dropped their threat of legal action against Roy. Meanwhile, the university’s entire hockey team has been suspended in the wake of reports that team members participated in a group sexual assault of a woman last month.