A University of Calgary club is accusing the Den and the Students’ Union of not doing enough to prevent sexual assaults after an attack was reported earlier this January.
The challenge was levelled by Consent Awareness and Sexual Education club vice-president external Emily Leedham, who said the SU needs to do more to ensure the safety of students who go drinking at the Den.
“The Den has been negligent in creating a safe atmosphere for students. It’s no longer acceptable to turn a blind eye to this issue,” Leedham said. “It’s definitely time for the SU to step up and do something to create awareness about this issue. I know that there are lots of people and organizations in the greater campus community and in the Calgary area that would be willing to help them out.”
SU president Raphael Jacob said the Den staff and the SU are mindful of the risks present at the campus bar and insisted that staff take precautions to mitigate them.
“These aren’t just customers or clients of ours, they’re also our constituents. We always make sure that when someone is visibly intoxicated we don’t just kick them out,” Jacob said. “We always call SafeWalk, make sure they have a way to get home, see if they have friends with them and don’t serve them if they’re already too drunk.”
The Den has one SafeWalk sign at the entrance of the bar.
Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse (CCASA) educator Joe Campbell said his organization approached the Den twice, offering to put up “Don’t Be That Guy” posters in the bar — posters meant to discourage men from committing sexual assault. He said they did not receive a response.
“We did approach the Den and ask if they would be interested in putting up the posters. Those posters are not up in the Den,” Campbell said. “Both the ‘Don’t Be That Guy’ collective and the Den want less instances of sexual assault and we are really open to working with them. We’d love it if they did put up the posters.”
CCASA distributed “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign posters in 2010 and last summer.
The SU selects what organizations can advertise in the Den. Jacob said the SU supports the “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign and never heard that the CCASA approached the Den.
“I don’t know the whole story. When we asked our Den manager about it, he said that he couldn’t remember anything like this,” Jacob said. “We have supported [the “Don’t be That Guy” campaign] since day one. We have posters in our SU office of it up. I would be shocked if there was any real resistance to it.”
Along with putting up posters, CASE president Ellen Bolger said the Den could do more to prepare staff to identify and prevent potential cases of sexual assault.
“The Den needs to put up those posters and their staff should also take bystander intervention training,” Bolger said. “They need to invest in student safety because it is a student-run organization.”
The SU is holding an internal review to assess the Den’s policy toward sexual assault prevention. Jacob said that the process could take up to a month.
“Any time something like this happens, obviously it’s a major concern. We do an internal review when something like this comes up just to make sure that our internal processes and what not are good,” Jacob said. “We always want to make sure we’re doing a good job and there will be a review of that done.”
Campbell said that CCASA is willing to work with the SU to prevent future assaults.
“I’d be very happy to work in partnership with the Den to get the message out about positive and healthy sexual relationships and we are hoping to continue the ‘Don’t Be That Guy’ campaign,” Campbell said. “There is lots of really cool stuff going on on campus with regards to starting the conversation with regards to sexual violence, with the CASE club and sexual education week coming up. I think this is a real positive step in the right direction.”