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The Historical Development of Sexual Assault Policy at the University of Saskatchewan: An Institutional Ethnography



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Over the past few years, incidents of gender-based violence on Canadian university campuses have gained public attention. In 2013 rape chants occurred during frosh week at two universities – UBC and Saint Mary’s. In March 2014 the University of Ottawa’s hockey and coaching staff was suspended after the sexual assault of a woman was reported in Thunder Bay where the team was playing an out-of-town game. Later in 2014, the misogynistic Facebook posts by Dalhousie dentistry students came to the public’s attention. A number of sexual assaults have also taken place on the University of Saskatchewan campus, including high profile cases in 2003 and 2012. The current project takes a step back to explore two research questions. First, how did women’s experiences at the University of Saskatchewan campus shape the institutional discourse and policies and procedures on sexual assault? Second, what were the “ruling relations” that affected the chain of actions leading to the development of sexual assault policies? In order to answer the two research questions, institutional ethnography, augmented by interpretive historical sociology, were utilized. Archival documents from the University of Saskatchewan Archives and Special Collections were gathered and six semi-structured interviews were conducted. Double standards, sexism, limited child care, sexual harassment and sexual assault were just a few issues that female students, faculty, and staff were concerned with at the University of Saskatchewan. There were a number of groups on campus during the time frame under investigation such as the Pente Kai Deka, the Women’s Directorate, and the Help Centre. However, the thesis focuses mainly on the President’s Committee on the Status of Women (PCSW), the President’s Advisory Committee on the Status of Women (PACSW), and the Sexual Harassment Office (SH Office). In 1990 the PACSW was formally created. The main iii goal of the PACSW was to create the Reinventing Our Legacy (ROL) report, which was based on submissions received from all groups on campus. Through the submissions the PACSW derived nine recommendations to address sexual/gender harassment at the University of Saskatchewan. The six interviewees involved with the PACSW described the barriers experienced both within and outside the Committee. As well, the interviewees felt the ROL report did not have the expected impact on the University of Saskatchewan campus. Incidents of sexism, sexual harassment and sexual assault are still occurring at the University of Saskatchewan. Based on information received from the women of the PACSW interviewed for this research, the archival data collected, and other research involvement regarding campus sexual assault, the thesis presents five recommendations for the University of Saskatchewan: a safe space, professional staff, education, policy and procedures, and resources.



Campus, Sexual Assault, Feminist Theory, Women's Movement, Advocacy, History



Master of Arts (M.A.)






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