Mt. A drafts new sexual violence policy after 22 years

VP student life presents draft of new sexual violence policy to MASU council

A draft version of the university’s new Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Policy has been completed. Kim Meade, Mount Allison’s vice-president student and international affairs, has worked in conjunction with Melody Petlock, Mt. A’s sexual harassment advisor, to update Mt. A’s Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Policies and Procedures. The old policies have been in place since 1994, with slight reformatting – and no substantive change – in 1999.

Meade and Petlock circulated the draft to MASU council on March 7, requesting input. Meade said the draft had also been presented to faculty council, the President’s Advisory Committee on Women’s and Gender Issues and the MASU executive. Meade further noted that the policy will be brought to the Board of Regents meeting in May for official approval.

When asked for her thoughts on the policy-writing process, fourth-year sociology student Caroline Kovesi emphasized the importance of institutional transparency.

“It is imperative that [the policy] be informed by the experiences and opinions of those it impacts most,” she said. “Every student is vulnerable to experiences of sexual violence, and thus should be given the opportunity to share their thoughts on the policy before it is endorsed.” Kovesi would like a general call for feedback to be issued to the student body.

In 2012, the MASU contracted METRAC to complete an audit on campus safety. METRAC is a Toronto-based organization which works to end violence against women and youth across Canada.

The METRAC Safety and Security report was released in 2013. It reviewed the university’s policies and procedures in many areas of student safety, including sexual assault. In the recommendations section of the METRAC report, specific reference is made to the sexual harassment policy regarding language and titles of authorities surrounding sexual assault cases within the university.

The draft version of the new policy has incorporated many of the METRAC report’s suggestions. Most visibly, the policy is now gender-neutral in its language.

The term “survivor” is used much more frequently than the term “complainant” in the new policy. In the section titled Terminology and Definitions, it is stated under “survivor” that “an individual who has experienced sexual violence may identify with this label, as a term of empowerment, strength and healing.” A complainant is defined as “an individual who makes a written complaint of sexual violence.”

The old policy references  the dean of students as the figure of authority to which cases of sexual violence should be reported. Mt. A has not had a dean of students in eight years. In the draft, the responsible member of the administration  is the SHARE advisor in consultation with the director of student life in the case of a student survivor, and the responsible dean/director in consultation with a human resources consultant in the case of an employee survivor.

The new policy changes the time limit in regard to corrective action taken by the university. The old policy states that corrective action is to be completed within two months of the written complaint being given to the sexual harassment advisor; the new policy states that such action must take place within 10 working days. Within 20 working days of submission of the report to the SHARE advisor, both parties are to be provided with a copy of the report.

The updated version notes that individuals may pursue avenues through community resources concurrent with university procedures. When asked by MASU councillor Nick Cochkanoff what would happen if the university didn’t agree with the community resources chosen by the survivor, Petlock answered that it would always be up to the survivor to decide whom to consult and which actions to take.

According to the document, after an initial review one year from the date of its approval, the vice-president, international and student affairs will initiate review of the sexual violence policy every four years or “more frequently when relevant social, resource or legal changes otherwise warrant an update.”

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