Drinking Tampering

(Photo: Jack Wuotila)

(Photo: Jack Wuotila)

The Watch has confirmed that in the fall term, there was an incident of drink tampering in the Wardroom.

On Jan. 25, the Registrar’s Office sent out a statement to faculty and students on behalf of dean of students Katie Merwin.

“King’s is committed to ensuring our campus is an environment where any form of sexualized violence will not be tolerated,” the statement said. “Sexualized violence of any kind is fundamentally against the values and norms we all must live by if King’s is to be a truly welcoming and safe community for everyone. Achieving this is a responsibility of all members of the College.”

The e-mail also listed contacts and resources to use in case of suspicious activity or if someone has experienced sexual violence, as well as news on the Sexualized Violence, Awareness, Prevention and Response Policy, which has been in the works for the past two years and will be implemented by fall 2019.

The statement, however, did not address the specific incident in any way. In an interview, Merwin and University of King’s College President William Lahey said they were non-specific in order to protect the anonymity of the survivor, since King’s is a small community.

The only mention of drink tampering in general was a tip that people should watch their drinks.

The lack of specifics has many students feeling the university failed in addressing the drink tampering incident.

The Wardroom is a student-run bar, owned by the King’s Students’ Union. As the owners, the KSU could have issued their own statement, but instead went through the university.

KSU President Lianne Xiao said they thought the university would have issued a statement as soon as possible.

“We should have gotten it out sooner, we acknowledge that,” Lahey said.

Merwin and Lahey said there’s a consultation process between administrative teams, the KSU and the Wardroom

manager that had to take place before a statement could be released. Once that process was complete, it was early December.

With students preparing for exams and some FYP students having already left campus, they didn’t think that was the best time. Lahey added that they also could have issued the statement and reissued it when students returned.

“It’s the first time — as far as we know — that any such statement has been issued at King’s,” Lahey said. “Issuing statements about safety, about sexualized violence on a relatively regular basis, as part of a program of initiatives, is something we need to get in the habit of doing… because a lot of it is about creating awareness.”

On Jan. 26, the day after the statement was issued, third- year student Levi Clarkson, who has helped develop the upcoming sexualized violence policy, e-mailed Merwin to express their displeasure.

“You cannot issue a safety statement about sexualized violence in general because sexualized violence has always happened, and is currently happening, at King’s,” Clarkson wrote. “The purpose of a safety statement is to address a specific, imminent risk to the community that community members need to be informed of.

“I can only assume that this statement was your attempt to address the drink tampering incident in the Wardroom, which you were made aware of months ago… This statement is a failed attempt at addressing the drink tampering in the Wardroom because you never address the incident in the statement — which defeats the entire purpose of trying to keep our community safe.”

Clarkson concluded by asking the university to make a second statement. In an interview, Clarkson said they were prepared to take whatever action was necessary for a second statement to be released.

On Jan. 27, the KSU passed a motion to create an ad-hoc committee, called the Wardroom Support/ Complaint Committee. This committee is responsible for reviewing and responding to complaints about behaviour in the Wardroom; determining action; and making recommendations for the KSU council. The committee is on a trial run until fall 2019.

4 The Watch | February 2019| @kingswatch

On Jan. 27, the KSU passed a motion to create an ad-hoc committee, called the Wardroom Support/ Complaint Committee. This committee is responsible for reviewing and responding to complaints about behaviour in the Wardroom; determining action; and making recommendations for the KSU council. The committee is on a trial run until fall 2019.

On Jan. 28, Merwin replied to Clarkson, thanking them for their e-mail and saying that while she did not plan on making a second statement, she would consider it.

That same day, the KSU and Wardroom released a student-job posting. This student would be responsible for “researching guidelines which will best ensure the safety of students in the Wardroom space.” That involves studying various sexual violence policies and getting feedback from the King’s student body.

On Jan. 31, Clarkson created an online petition demanding the university issue another statement. When going to print, the petition had 127 signatures.

The petition demands this statement to include an acknowledgement that the statement was “too broad and thus failed to address any imminent safety risk,” and acknowledgement of students’ efforts to protect themselves and the university’s responsibility to address sexualized violence on campus; a commitment by the university to prevent sexualized violence on campus prior to the implementation of the Sexualized Violence Awareness, Prevention and Response Policy (such as “by improving security camera coverage”); safety tips specific to the Wardroom, such as how to approach staff or contact manager Jenn; information about the KSU union hired position for Wardy Policy Review and the ad hoc Wardroom Support/Complaint Committee that was elected during KSU council on Feb. 10, which allows students to formally complain about behaviour in the Wardroom.

Shortly after the petition was created, on Feb. 4, Clarkson and fourth-year student Phoebe Lamb met with Lahey and Merwin. The students shared the petition demands, explained each item and answered any questions.

Clarkson said that, during their meeting, Lahey said no apology would be made, as this is the first time the university done this.

“Just because it’s your first time, doesn’t mean you handled it appropriately,” Clarkson said in an interview.

Lahey felt the meeting was constructive, adding that they told Lamb and Clarkson that a decision regarding a second statement and the content of that statement

would be made “over the next couple of weeks.”

On Feb. 26, the HMCS Wardroom finally released a statement of its own, though apologized for the delay.

“The Wardroom staff and the KSU would like to acknowledge that the Wardroom is intended to be a safe- space,” the statement said. “Despite our wishes, while this drink tampering is happening, we cannot claim that the Wardroom is a safe space for all of its students.”

The statement added that any student can approach Wardroom staff on their terms, “in or outside the context of the Wardroom,” regarding their statement or behaviour in the bar. Wardroom complaints can also be submitted to [email protected]

The statement also demanded a second statement from the university.

As The Watch goes to print, no other statements have been issued by the university.