On Sept. 4, the USSU released a statement that Coden Nikbakht was no longer USSU President. For one student group that was created partly in response to Nikbakht’s acclamation in March, this statement means a shift of focus.
The USask Campus Community Coalition Against Sexual Violence was formed on March 23 in response to Nikbakht’s acclamation, after allegations of sexual misconduct were made against the sole presidential candidate on social media. The group helped to facilitate a protest where more than 100 students called on him to step down following his acclamation.
In the same month, the coalition also took part in spreading a petition calling for Nikbakht’s resignation on the group’s Facebook page as well as physically circulating the petition around campus. The petition received 261 signatures but failed to remove Nikbakht from office, as USSU bylaw requires signatures from 7.5 per cent of the student body to pass a vote of non-confidence.
Lia Storey-Gamble, a thirdyear regional urban planning student and member of the coalition, spoke to the Sheaf about Nikbakht’s departure from the USSU and about the future of the group. For Storey-Gamble, the coalition’s goals have not changed since the group was created.
“It was formed by people that, at the core, believe survivors — no matter what,” Storey-Gamble said. “It was formed of survivors themselves, and it was formed of allies. It’s a coalition that educates members and general students alike.”
Though reportedly not related to the allegations in March, Nikbakht’s exeunt from the USSU is something that Storey-Gamble says was long overdue for members of the coalition.
“As a coalition, we are of course pleased that [Nikbakht] is no longer president,” Storey-Gamble said. “However, we do firmly believe that he should have stepped down months ago.”
Although the coalition was formed in response to Nikbakht’s acclamation, Storey-Gamble says that his departure from the USSU does not impact the group’s overarching goals.
“This does not mean our coalition purpose has come to an end,” Storey-Gamble said. “We are not against one specific person — we are against sexual assault. We are against students being [victims] of sexual assault, and we will always believe survivors.”
Storey-Gamble says that there have been conversations within the group about forming a task force to determine the coalition’s next moves. Further, Storey-Gamble believes that the coalition offers much in the way of providing support for sexual-assault survivors.
“I think we need to create a culture on campus that allows survivors to step forward in a safe manner,” Storey-Gamble said. “I think the [coalition] offers a good forum to hold people to account when these allegations come forward.”
As for the coming year, Storey-Gamble says that the coalition is still seeking out members, calling on students interested in activism.
“We have meetings — anyone can join. We are definitely a thinking coalition. We are definitely a doing coalition. There is a Facebook group you can join,” Storey-Gamble said.
Looking forward, Storey-Gamble says that the coalition will continue to support sexual-assault survivors.
“We will always, always believe survivors in our coalition,” Storey-Gamble said. “If that means we have to [protest] again, we will… If someone is being victimized on this campus, we are there for them.”
Graphic: Jaymie Stachyruk / Graphics Editor