Yesterday, a survivor of sexual violence made a public appeal to the University and the UASU. The survivor has disclosed that they were assaulted by Ricardo Acuña, a University of Alberta professor and President of the Association of Academic Staff of the University of Alberta (AASUA). The UASU has also learned that Oxfam recently removed Acuña as the chair of the Oxfam Canada Board and a member of the Oxfam International Board due to allegations of sexual misconduct.
We believe survivors. We call on Acuña to resign as AASUA President and as Executive Director of the University’s Parkland Institute.
“I want to thank the survivor from the bottom of my heart for their post and for sharing their story,” said Talia Dixon, UASU Vice President (Student Life). “Speaking out publicly or privately is difficult, exhausting and infuriating for all survivors, including this survivor - particularly when you have been silenced or ignored in the past. As a woman, I’m not comfortable with Acuña holding a position of power on campus.”
We call on AASUA and the University to model academic citizenship and take overdue, much-needed action to keep the campus community safe. The UASU has longstanding concerns about opaque, inequitable reporting pipelines and sexual misconduct investigations. We requested action on this issue last year, and have asked both the University and AASUA to fix relevant problems in the AASUA collective agreement. Students demand transparent and robust reporting pathways, as well as sexual misconduct investigation mechanisms that align with trauma-informed care.
The UASU has also asked the University to set better standards for relationships between faculty, community members, and students, while enforcing its existing policies against discrimination and harassment. Currently, the University only discourages instructors pursuing relationships or sexual interactions with their own students. However, the vast majority of students - especially women and gender minorities and Indigenous students - support stronger standards.
“The federal data is clear and horrifying,” said Rowan Ley, UASU President. “Every year, in a campus community as big as ours, dozens of students face sexual harassment and assault from people in positions of authority who work as mentors, educators, leaders or organizers. They need to be held to a high standard of accountability if we hope to create a ‘culture of consent.’”
Finally, we repeat our call to make hiring a Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator (SVPRC) an immediate priority, both in recognition of the present needs of survivors and in an attempt to reduce and prevent harm. Students have already agreed to provide some of the funding for this role. The Board of Governors approved this arrangement in March, and the University was supposed to hire the SVPRC over the summer. However, the position - which students have fought so hard to create - remains vacant.
“The last VP Student Life and I have consistently asked the University to fill this position,” said Dixon. “Sexual violence can’t be quietly shuffled off to a working group, and the University can’t ignore survivors. The people and institutions who can make a difference have a responsibility to take meaningful action.”
If you need to talk to someone and are safe to do so, you can call, text, or chat the Alberta One Line for Sexual Violence at 1-866-403-8000.
For more information, or to arrange an interview, contact:
External Relations Specialist