Ryerson president Sheldon Levy said Monday that Ryerson may not have the highest rate of sexual assaults of all Canadian universities, as the CBC reported.
The report compares “apples to oranges,” Levy says. Ryerson is simply better at reporting sexual assaults than other schools.
“We try to encourage as best we can the reporting of these incidents.”
The CBC News investigation found Ryerson University received more reports of sexual assault than any other university or college in Canada between 2009 and 2013.
Levy says Ryerson’s definition of sexual assault is very broad.
“They’re comparing schools but we don’t really know who’s including what in their numbers,” says vice-provost students, Heather Lane Vetere. She is responsible for Ryerson’s sexual assault policy review.
The university uses the Criminal Code definition of sexual assault, which is a continuum that starts with unwanted touching, according to a statement from administration released Monday.
Additionally, the data Ryerson provided to the CBC includes non-community members involved in incidents on the university’s downtown core campus.
“If an assault happened between two people near our campus, say at Yonge and Gerrard, and it was reported to our security and neither parties were part of Ryerson, it would be included in our numbers,” Vetere says.
The president added that there are “inconsistencies” in how sexual assault is reported in different universities across the country.
Vetere wants that to change.
“There’s a reference group that’s been set up by the Council of Ontario Universities,” Vetere says.
“One of the things I think they’re going to spend some time talking about is how to do the reporting on campuses, what to include and what not to include, so that we’re comparing apples and apples and we’re all reporting and collecting the data in the same way, because right now I don’t think that’s the case.”
The university of almost 24,000 full-time students received 57 reports in the four years.
In 2012, at least six women reported being sexually assaulted on campus in a two-week span during the fall semester. A security representative said it may have been because women were reporting more.
The investigation also revealed that over 700 sexual assaults were reported in all Canadian universities and colleges during the 2009-2013 period.
Experts like Lee Wakeman from the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter told the CBC that this “laughingly low” number may suggest that schools are not encouraging victims to come forward.
In a talk at Ryerson in 2013, Jane Doe said that “universities minimize reports of sexual assaults on campus or near campus.”
Jane Doe is a woman who successfully sued Toronto police after the community wasn’t warned about a sexual predator and she was assaulted.
“When it comes to sexual assault, any number above zero is unacceptable,” the university said in its statement.
Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., received the highest number of reports in relation to its population. CBC contacted 87 universities and colleges across Canada but 10 institutions declined to participate.
The report also quoted experts who discouraged readers “against coming to conclusions based on the raw data.”
With files from Debbie Hernandez
This story also appeared in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on Feb. 11, 2015.