Concordia University released the report of its task force on sexual misconduct and sexual violence on June 26. Training sessions, a step-by-step guide for filing complaints, an online hub and the implementation of a standing committee on sexual misconduct and sexual violence were recommended as key steps to moving forward.
Alan Shepard, Concordia University’s president launched the task force in January 2018, in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct and sexual violence in the creative writing department. Its mandate is to consult the Concordia community about problems with the university’s policies and procedures concerning sexual misconduct and violence. To do so, the task force collected information and data through community conversations, surveys, and community members’ feedback.
To clarify Concordia’s Policy on Sexual Violence, the report recommended a wider definition of sexual violence and specific examples to include power imbalances and coercion. It also added that the discouragement of relationships between students and employees should be better emphasized in the Code of Rights and Responsibilities and Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships Guidelines.
A survey issued by the task force at the end of April was completed by over 1,500 community members, which was comprised of over 900 students and almost 600 faculty and staff members. Their level of familiarity with the current policies and resources available at Concordia was significantly weak, with an average rating of 2.1 out of 5. To address this lack of knowledge, the task force recommended that the university write a step-by-step guide for filing complaints. Lisa Ostiguy, the deputy provost and chairperson of the task force said they are “creating a mapping [of the processes]. If you experience this, here’s where you could go, here’s what they do, here’s what will happen when you get there, and here are your options when you get there.”
The step-by-step guide is expected to be complete by the fall semester. It will be a collaborative effort between all parties involved, such as the Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC), the Office of Rights and Responsibilities (ORR) and campus wellness and support services, among others. For instance, Jennifer Drummond, SARC’s coordinator, is responsible for outlining the centre’s processes and services in the guide.
A significant take away from the survey is that members of the Concordia community don’t know where to find help or how the processes used to file complaints work. The task force suggested an online hub, which will likely be linked to the Concordia website, to serve as a potential solution to this issue. According to Ostiguy, it will create a place where any relevant information can be found. The hub will also be constantly updated by the task force and the soon-to-be-established standing committee on sexual misconduct and sexual violence.
The task force has also placed training and education of the Concordia community as its top priority. Due to Bill 151, training will be continuous and mandatory, as is required in all post-secondary institutions. According to the report, the training will take multiple formats, including online and in person, and will be “sensitive to intersectional concerns” as well.
In the next two months, the task force will put together a standing committee mandated by Bill 151 to revise and implement the relevant policies and keep track of the university’s progress.
Graphic by ZeZe Le Lin