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Truth hits home? UWI urged to address horror on halls

Published:Sunday | February 15, 2015 | 2:00 AM

Tyrone Thompson, Staff Reporter

The assault of two female students on the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) by a male student last Tuesday has raised fresh questions about gender-based violence on the campus, despite claims by the administration that this is not a major problem.

Coming just two weeks after a Sunday Gleaner report on the prevalence of attacks on female students on the campus, the latest incident has resulted in loud calls for the administration to accept that this is a major problem and to take steps to address it.

Responding to the Sunday Gleaner report, the administration of the university had claimed that allegations of widespread gender-based violence were "not supported by available data".

But since last Tuesday's incident, the West Indies Group of University Teachers (Jamaica) has called for "broad-based gender-sensitive training" as it urged the administration to move decisively against all incidents of harassment and violence.

The UWI chapter of Generation 2000, the Mona Campus Youth League, also added its voice for more to be done to combat gender-based violence.

"The issue of violence - and, in particular, gender-based violence - on the campus can no longer be played down and this is an opportune time for the administration to aggressively deal with the problem once and for all in a fulsome manner," said Ansel Pulchan, communications officer of the group and a gender studies student.

UNDER-REPORTING OF ATTACKS

The president of the Guild of Students, Lerone Laing, who had declared two weeks ago that his administration had not given priority to addressing gender-based violence on the campus, blamed under-reporting of the attacks for that position.

"As a student body government, we will have to refocus our efforts to get the administration to pay more serious attention to give the reporting and treatment of these incidents more prominence. We also have to be more vocal in encouraging female students who have experienced abuse of whatever kind to come forward and speak out," said Laing.

The attack on the two female students seemed to have jolted even the administration of the campus to acknowledge that the problem was greater than it assumed.

"The university is … consulting internal and external experts on violence and conflict resolution in order to determine the extent and nature of the problem and to develop appropriate measures to address any underlying issues," said the administration in a statement last week.

Sources close to the administration told our news team that the issue of gender-based violence was the main topic of a meeting last Thursday, with some persons present upset that the university had responded to The Sunday Gleaner before carefully analysing its data.

"One of the issues discussed was that the methods of reporting violence on campus had never taken into consideration violence against female students committed by male students," said one source.

"So the security officers just reported an incident as 'assault' and didn't take into consideration if it was a male who assaulted another male student or a male who assaulted a female student. That should have been investigated by the administration before they refuted the allegations."