Sexual Assault, the University of Ottawa, and a Lawsuit

“There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” – Pierre Elliott Trudeau

But, what about universities in the bedrooms of their students?

In February 2014 allegations of sexual assault were made against the University of Ottawa’s men’s varsity hockey team in Thunderbay. The night of the alleged sexual assault, the team’s coach became aware of the allegations against two team members. On March 3, 2014, the President of the University of Ottawa, Allan Rock, announced the suspension of the entire hockey team for the rest of the year. In June 2014, Mr. Rock cancelled the 2014-2015 men’s hockey season and fired the coach.

Subsequently, the hockey players launched a class action against the University of Ottawa, Creppin v University of Ottawa, 2015 ONSC 4449. They claimed amongst other things that Mr. Rock acted negligently in his treatment of the hockey players and that he acted beyond his capacity as Dean.

Can a university punish their own hockey team for the actions of a couple team players?

In my opinion, when it happens during school time, YES.

A university should be allowed to manage its own affairs and condemn sexual assault. The actions occurred against a backdrop of a larger culture, specifically “rape culture”. The alleged sexual assault occurred during a team trip. A trip associated with the University of Ottawa. Placing the students precisely in the purview of the university.

As the tides have recently shifted in favour of punishing sexual assault, the law remains unsettled on how universities can punish their students for sexual assault.

Universities should not be silenced by the threat of litigation. Instead, they should act bravely in the face of injustice.

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