Serious allegations of sexual assault are marring student elections at the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union (USSU).
David D’Eon, the Student Union’s current president, announced on Facebook Thursday he’s refusing to participate in the transition of power to Coden Nikbakht due to several allegations made against the incoming acclaimed president.
“As the current president of the USSU, I am obliged by the bylaws to stay as far out of our elections as humanly possible. As a human being who has volunteered at the Women’s Centre for years, and benefited from my feminist peers, I’m choosing to break that rule,” D’Eon wrote.
“I believe the allegations. I believe women.”
D’Eon told reporters the stance doesn’t mean he maintains power, since his contract expires April 30. Instead, he’s refusing to assist Nikbakht in transitioning to his tenure as president.
The accusations were initially made public early Thursday morning on Facebook by Betty Pewapsconias, who said several women had come forward alleging the acclaimed president had sexually assaulted them.
Another Facebook post by Jessica Quan, current USSU vice pre sident of academic responsibility, alleged Nikbakht sexually assaulted her friend in the past.Quan said her friend didn’t press charges after the incident.
“The justice system isn’t built to protect victims of sexual assault. The system is a vicious and endless cycle of re-victimization,” she wrote.
Quan declined to speak to media about the accusation.
Nikbakht denied the allegations in a written statement Friday afternoon.
“I am extremely appalled and bewildered by the allegations made against me,” he writes.
“I never imagined that running as a candidate for our USSU would be this sickening. To the people who gave me their support and to those who did not, I want to reassure you that these allegations are nothing but false.”
Nikbakht said he would consider his next actions and release another statement.
Saskatoon police told 650 CKOM they couldn’t provide any information, noting they “do not release the names of people who could be the subject or victim in an investigation.”
Police did encourage victims of sexual assault to report to officers so it could be investigated.
University of Saskatchewan Vice-Provost Patti McDougall told 650 CKOM she was aware of concerns, but the U of S has no power to interfere in the USSU — a completely separate organization.
However, she said students involved with the USSU were still subject to the university’s code of conduct and there was a “robust” investigation process for sexual assault.
“When a complaint comes forward, we mobilize to ensure the safety of the survivor … and do what we need to do to protect the campus,” she said.
However, McDougall couldn’t comment on specific cases and noted findings of an investigation would only be revealed to those involved in the complaint.