Friday, November 4, 2016

Sexual Violence Policy Update

Sally Gunz, FAUW President

A number of you will have been following issues relating to the new policy on sexual violence (Policy 42). The province has mandated that all Ontario universities have sexual violence policies in place by January 1, 2017. There is no flexibility in terms of the date. The draft presented at the last Senate meeting was the work of PACE (Provost’s Advisory Committee on Equity) and was headed by the university equity officer, Mahejabeen Ebrahim.

FAUW is supportive of this initiative and very grateful for all PACE’s hard work. Our concerns in no way are a reflection of the effort and contribution of all involved in creating the current draft. Rather, and put quite simply, developing and approving a fully working policy and procedures within the timeline imposed by the government was a near impossible task. The Policy 33 (Ethical Behavior) revision committee has been grappling with closely related issues for a lengthy period and has still not managed to propose a workable process.

The policy itself was approved by the Board of Governors on October 25th and FAUW was supportive. FAUW and others argued for the delay of the accompanying procedures/protocols because the current version had elements with which we could not agree.

FAUW’s concerns

Our most immediate concerns involve aspects that relate to potential disciplinary investigations and measures against faculty members, as these touch directly upon the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA). We need to ensure that these are handled in a way that is fully consistent with the principles of natural justice.

From FAUW’s perspective, it is undoubtedly very important (and legally necessary) that the university provide an environment whereby any person who has suffered trauma of any kind receive the quickest and most appropriate support and care.

It is also undoubtedly very important (and legally necessary) that anyone – staff, student, or faculty – who might be implicated as a perpetrator of that trauma has a right to all the protections of a sound disciplinary process. The consequences can be very serious for alleged perpetrators including exclusion from the university and dismissal. It is the responsibility of everyone helping draft these policies and procedures to get this balance right and FAUW is committed to working with others to achieve this.

We also have members with substantial expertise in areas relating to equity and sexual violence who have expressed concern about the proposal to handle sexual harassment in a manner that is distinct from other forms of sexual violence.

Next steps

We were provided with clear assurances by the administration – and these were repeated at Senate and the Board of Governors meeting – and on this basis were prepared to provide support for the policy itself.

The sexual violence response coordinator position created in the policy will be independent of other units of campus, report directly to the provost and be housed in Health Services. Investigations will be conducted by people external to the university.

We are working to get the protocols/procedures ready for approval by the Board of Governors in early December. A complete review of both the policy and procedures will begin January 1, 2017, so that the issues that we (and others) have raised can be addressed. At this time there will be an opportunity to ensure close coordination with the Policy 33 revision committee and likely FAUW will have to consider some changes to existing disciplinary procedures in the MoA. All of these proposals are positive and we look forward to reporting more on them as things progress.

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