By: Chris Williamson and Dalai Cote
In March 2015, while I was still a student at Western, University President Amit Chakma vowed to listen to students and work to create a better campus for students, staff, and faculty. It is now over a year later, and as an alumnus I feel that Amit Chakma is continuing to fail the Western community.
Western endured some heartbreaking tragedies this year. What was so tragic about them was that they were preventable, and the fact they were preventable suggested a university environment wherein students were not being kept safe by an administration that was supposed to protect them.
For me, the most troubling thing is that this unsafe environment continues to exist.
Right now University Hospital is the most overcrowded hospital in all of Ontario, and has been for over 2.5 years. For ten consecutive quarters, University Hospital has been operating at over 100 per cent capacity, meaning that students in need of physical care or mental health treatment may be forced to wait for the resources they desperately need.
Campus Police has also recently sounded the alarm over unsafe conditions on campus, with constables suggesting that the administration has taken no steps to address the circumstances that led to some of the aforementioned tragedies. In fact, the administration is actually attempting to further decrease police presence on campus, and as of this writing not a single Western campus constable is even adequately trained to answer 911 calls.
These stories, and many others, paint a picture of a campus that puts other priorities ahead of the safety of its students.
So, what has the administration spent their time and money focusing on? Trying to stop students from drinking on Homecoming by moving the event to the middle of exams, despite the fact that last year’s Homecoming was described as one of the calmest in recent memory.
While it remains unclear whether Homecoming’s new date will actually curb street parties, what is strikingly clear is that the university is putting outside influences ahead of the wellness of its students.
Moving Homecoming to one of the most strenuous academic periods of the semester will put additional stress on students, forcing them to choose between their academics and taking part in Western’s largest tradition.
When justifying the decision, Janice Deakin, provost and vice-president academics at Western, said that during last year’s Homecoming the university was “flirting with unspeakable disaster” and that “something terrible is going to happen.”
Ms. Deakin, I have to disagree. Something terrible isn’t going to happen. It already has.
This year was characterized by a series of unspeakable disasters, none of which were Homecoming related. Months later, there’s still a lack of resources and safety measures in place for Western students.
To current Western students reading this, I urge you to speak up and demand accountability from university leadership.
To my fellow alumni, I urge you to consider whether or not your donations actually go to support the best student experience in Canada.
And Amit Chakma, if you’re reading this, I implore you to consider my words.
I implore you to really consider what will actually keep the students you’ve sworn to protect safe.
Above all else, I implore you to start working with us instead of against us by not treating the students of Western University as mere liabilities.
We are not the enemy.
Chris Williamson is a 2015 Western alumnus and former Mustang, residence adviser and faculty soph. Dalai Cote is a 2016 Western alumnus and a former faculty soph.
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