There were 43 official victims of sexual violence on campus last year, and they didn’t have a policy outlining how their situation should be addressed.
But next year, a policy will be put in place to direct how the university will resolve sexual violence. The Sexual Violence Policy is currently going through the formal approval process and is scheduled to be implemented in July 2017.
Among other things, the policy outlines:
- That sexual violence committed by any member of the university community is prohibited and constitutes misconduct, where a member of the university community is anybody who has a formal affiliation with the university
- The university‘s commitment to support any member of their community who has experienced sexual violence by informing the survivor of the resources and options available to them
- The university’s responsibility to raise awareness of consent, sexual violence, and prevention, as well as maintain safe, confidential, and neutral mechanisms for individuals to make disclosures
- The difference between a disclosure and a complaint, where a disclosure is when the survivor tells someone that they have experienced sexual assault, and a complaint being a report for the purposes of starting a formal investigation
The full proposed policy can be found below:Sexual Violence Policy Draft
One of the policy’s strongest aspects, according to the Student’s Union Vice-President (Student Life) Francesca Ghossein, is that the current draft consolidates all of the options available to sexual assault survivors into one document.
“Before, if the student had experienced sexual violence on campus, they would have to find their way to the service that could help them,” she said. “Now it’s very clear who students can go to and what they can expect when they go to that administrator or officer of the university.”
The University of Alberta’s timing with the Sexual Violence Policy is in step with provinces such as Ontario and British Columbia, which have recently mandated similar policies for post-secondary institutions. Expecting Alberta to eventually implement a sexual violence policy requirement for post-secondary institutions, Ghossein said that the U of A is ahead of the game, and won’t be forced to put out a rushed product.
Read more from February: University releases final report on sexual assault policies
The creation of the policy was one of 46 recommendations put forth in February 2016 in the U of A’s sexual assault review, which outlined a number of ways the U of A can improve its response to sexual violence.
Currently, university community members’ actions regarding sexual violence are governed by their respective agreements with the university, whether that’s the Code of Student Behaviour for students or employment contracts for faculty, according to Deborah Eerkes, Director and Discipline Officer of Student Conduct and Accountability. An important offering of the Sexual Violence Policy is that it provides a unified baseline for all university community members.
“With the new definitions in the policy we can ensure that the entire community is held to the same standards and understands the concepts, like consent,” Eerkes said.