Editor’s Note: ‘Dear Life’ allegations


Two weeks ago, in the Feb. 12 issue of The Cord, we received an anonymous ‘Dear Life’ through our online form making an allegation toward a volunteer at Foot Patrol, an on-campus service that walks students home.

Shortly following the publication of that ‘Dear Life,’ The Cord received another submission — this time to the dearlife@thecord.ca e-mail account — about a similar situation. From what we were told by that person from that particular e-mail account, their submission was a separate case to the original submission found in the Feb. 12 issue. They also mentioned speaking with the university about their situation.

The ‘Dear Life’ submissions in question sparked an investigation within the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union and the dean of students’ office about this situation.     As the story on the cover explains, the university and the union have no recollection of any situation coming to their attention, but in the situations when these things do happen, they asserted that they do take them very seriously.

Some have questioned why The Cord printed a ‘Dear Life’ in the first place that accused an individual from a service without any evidence to be accurate information. It’s true that we don’t’ investigate every single ‘Dear Life’ that comes through, but nor should we have to. The whole point of ‘Dear Life’ is to be an anonymous open forum where people vent about situations in their lives.

And someone — well, two people — did exactly that. They vented about a situation in their life through an anonymous forum.

I’m not here to comment on whether or not that was appropriate for someone to make such an allegation anonymously through campus media (or as a first step), but it has exposed a problem of sorts. There must be a reason why this person decided to go through ‘Dear Life’ rather than through the union or SCS.

Maybe they just didn’t know where to go. Or maybe they felt they weren’t getting adequate support elsewhere. Regardless, the ‘Dear Life’ sparked a discussion and a reaction on campus.

The Cord had full right to look into the situation. We asked questions. We talked to many people. We did our due diligence in terms of getting information, and we tried our best to report this story accurately.

We did have contact through email with the second person who submitted a ‘Dear Life.’ But because of the sensitivity of the topic and their safety, we respected the fact they didn’t want to speak in person or over the phone, and their right to anonymity.

By no means is The Cord trying to run a smear campaign against Foot Patrol or the dean of students office, as they both offer a valuable service to the university in dealing with such situations.

But it’s good to have this discussion. Sexual assault and harassment are important to discuss, and regardless of what the context is, we should still have that discussion.
We admit that there’s a chance that these allegations could be false, but with two supposedly different ‘Dear Life’ submissions about a similar situation coming our way, it doesn’t seem likely.

The story we have published is fair. It tells what the university is doing in response. And we should explore what these allegations mean.

Don’t make this situation about us, but make it about the discourse that needs to take place.

If you’d like to come forward and speak to us about this story, and are comfortable doing so, then please e-mail jsmirlies@thecord.ca. And if you’re ever in a moment of distress, feel free to contact SCS at (519) 885-3333. There are plenty of other services on campus that can help you and we encourage you to reach out to them.

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