A dose of objectivity on a sensitive issue
Re: Council votes to keep ex-Soph despite claim of sexual advances, Oct.23
To the Editor:
On the evening of Sept. 6, 1997, Mr. Trier left for a keg party where he allegedly consumed alcohol and allegedly harassed a first-year Saugeen resident. As a result of these claims, he was de-sophed, but a motion to remove him from the USC was defeated by way of a USC tribunal. This issue is obviously a sensitive subject and one that requires the most delicate of care.
In our society, too often do incidences of sexual harassment go unreported. The victim can feel a sense of shame, frustration and helplessness in a situation where it is usually easier to say nothing. I firmly believe that people should do whatever is in their power to help anyone who comes forward in claiming sexual harassment. There are many avenues on campus which a person who has been sexually harassed can use to become aware of their options and to be listened to. A claim of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously and investigated upon.
Though I am a staunch liberal feminist, I am appalled at the violation of one of Mr. Trier's fundamental rights. I reiterate again, a person's claim to sexual harassment should always be taken seriously as it is a cancer on our society, however, a person is always innocent until proven guilty. If this was not the case, we could easily revert back to the early 20th century where blacks in the American south were hung for just being accused of a serious offence. Many blacks would often not even make it to a jail cell, let alone a trial they would simply be killed, regardless of their guilt or innocence. The notion of being innocent until proven guilty is fundamental in our society for a reason.
I believe the writer of the "Council Votes..." article should have been significantly more objective and balanced. The Gazette was irresponsible in its journalism and obviously slanted. In reporting this issue, a huge degree of sensitivity needs to be given to the feelings of the first-year student making the allegations of sexual harassment, but also to Mr. Trier and the principle of being innocent until proven guilty. Only four short sentences of the 13-paragraph long article mention anything in support of Mr. Trier's side and more importantly to the fact that the USC Tribunal found he had done nothing to constitute being a bad councillor. In fact, The Gazette goes so far as to accept as truth that Mr. Trier committed the offence "...consumed alcohol and harassed a first-year Saugeen resident both actions WERE in violation of his Soph contract." By using the past tense of 'were,' instead of 'these types of actions are' makes a definite argument that Mr. Trier was indeed guilty of sexual harassment. I would like to know where this information of a guilty verdict from a criminal court proceeding was found, when obviously the rest of us are not privy to this information. This is a sensitive issue and was not handled with a proper level of objectivity or balance. If this was some sort of typing error, it still does not excuse the rest of the article which contains a heavily slanted tone against Mr. Trier. In my opinion, the article borders on slander to the character of Mr. Trier, who, as I found out, is a dedicated honours student with a high 80 per cent average. I do not think The Gazette realized this is a person they are writing about. Though one must always take an allegation of sexual harassment seriously, a person is always innocent until proven guilty. Especially when a USC tribunal found him innocent of any charges which would dismiss him of his position. Being sexually harassed is a horrible experience for any person, but, in our society, not being innocent until proven guilty is just as horrible, if not worse.