Student life coordinator Leyla Sutherland says current policy doesn’t fit the definition
A collective of students from Carleton University called the National Our Turn Committee published a study on university sexual violence policies across the country on Oct. 11. Our Turn: a National, Student-Led Action Plan to End Campus Sexual Violence ranked the sexual assault policies of 14 Canadian universities on a 100-point scale.
Concordia was the lowest-ranked school on the list, receiving a score of 52, or a D-. One of the reasons the university was deducted points was for not having a standalone policy on sexual violence. University spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr said the university was “surprised by the findings of this particular report,” since Concordia has had a standalone policy since May 2016. This most recent sexual assault policy was based on recommendations made in August 2015 by the Sexual Assault Policy Review Working Group, chaired by deputy provost Lisa Ostiguy.
However, Concordia Student Union (CSU) student life coordinator Leyla Sutherland, who helped conduct the evaluation, said this policy does not fit Our Turn’s definition of a standalone policy.
“Our Turn’s definition of a standalone policy stipulates that all aspects of the policy, including disciplinary codes and measures, be included in the policy itself,” Sutherland said. “This is both to make the policy more accessible, as it does not redirect students to another document, and because [Concordia’s] Code of Rights and Responsibilities, through which sexual violence complaints are processed at Concordia, is a code that was not created with the intent to cover sexual violence.”
“It is important that the policy and the people reviewing cases pertaining to sexual violence are people who are trained and equipped to manage the sensitive nature of these cases,” she added.
According to Section 5 of Concordia’s sexual assault policy, “Reporting and Discipline,” if an incident falls under the jurisdiction of the university—meaning it happened on university property, during a university event or “in [a] context where activities or events have a real and substantive link to the university”—the incident may be reported to the university rather than to police. Rather than outlining a formal complaint procedure unique to sexual assault cases, the on-campus option redirects the reader to the Code of Rights and Responsibilities, which lays out behavioral guidelines for students, staff and faculty, and the process by which all formal complaints are reviewed. This includes the process for submitting a complaint, the selection of a hearing panel and the hearing itself.
For complaints made against a faculty or staff member, “reports and complaints can also be made to the appropriate supervisor, depending on the parties involved”. However, Section 11 of the code states that “nothing in the code shall replace or supersede any complaint, grievance or appeal procedure set out in any collective or employee agreement to which the university is a party,” meaning faculty and staff are subject to whatever disciplinary procedure is laid out in their employee agreement.
Two other schools were penalized in the study for not having a standalone policy: McGill University and the University of Winnipeg. Another three—Dalhousie, the University of Regina and the University of Toronto—were awarded half marks for their standalone policies.
Sutherland confirmed she will be meeting with the administration during the week of Oct. 30 to discuss the outcome of the study.
Photo by Alex Hutchins