McGill is taking another step toward having a Sexual Violence Policy in place by the end of the calendar year, an objective Provost and Vice-Principal Academic Christopher Manfredi announced at Senate and Board of Governors last month.
Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures and Equity) Angela Campbell has begun circulating a draft of the policy to various groups on McGill’s campuses with a view to acquiring feedback before the policy proceeds to Senate next fall. The current draft is built upon the efforts of a student working group which, working with Dean of Students Andre Costopoulos, drove the process forward over the last couple of years.
“I want to thank the members of the student working group for their valuable contributions on this matter,” Manfredi said. “They have demonstrated how important the issue is for our community and they have pushed us hard to make sure this happens.
“The timing for the consultation isn’t exactly ideal, given that we’re now past the end of the academic year, but this is the beginning of a consultation that will continue into the fall, so all will have a chance to share their views,” Manfredi said. “If we want this to pass before the end of the year, we have to begin the consultation process now.”
Manfredi had told Senate in April, as part of his presentation on the budget for the coming fiscal year, that funding has been set aside to add to the resources available for the prevention of and survivor-focused responses to sexual assault. He noted further that the new allocation will be roughly equal to that presently dedicated to the Office of the Liaison Officer (Harm Reduction) .
The preamble of the draft policy focuses on the University’s commitment to supporting survivors and understanding that different individuals, by virtue of their sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or other factors, may experience sexual violence in different ways.
“McGill University is committed to creating a safe environment through protective, visible, accessible and effective approaches that seek to prevent and respond to Sexual Violence,” the preamble says. “The University further recognizes the singular importance of striving toward an equitable environment in which all Members of the University Community feel respected, safe and free from violence in any form, especially Sexual Violence.
“The University acknowledges that attention to Sexual Violence is particularly important in university campus settings. It further acknowledges that individuals who experience intersecting forms of disadvantage (on grounds, for example, of gender, sexual orientation or identity, race, Indigenous identity, ethnicity, disability or class) may be disproportionately affected by Sexual Violence and its consequences.
“This Policy focuses on ensuring support for survivors of sexual violence, as opposed to attributing fault or responsibility. Through it, the University commits to support survivors based on their personal experiences, whether or not a criminal offence has occurred.”
“I am pleased that we have been able to bring this draft forward,” said Campbell, who also pointed to the contributions of the student working group. “These are difficult issues on campuses around the world, and McGill is no exception,” she said. “Incidents of sexual violence can be incredibly difficult to address and it is important that the University has a clear policy to guide those dealing with such incidents so that they are able to give survivors the support they seek and need.
“It’s important to note that this policy, while focusing on supporting survivors, is consistent with the University’s strong commitment to procedural equity.”
The draft policy articulates three core objectives: it requires McGill to be active in trying to prevent sexual violence through a variety of measures, including educational campaigns; it obliges the University to take all reasonable efforts institute specific measures focused on support for survivors of sexual violence; and it explains how an incident of sexual violence should be handled. In this last respect, the draft policy states:
“In responding to a disclosure of Sexual Violence, the appropriate University authority may take immediate measures to protect the survivor and University community in compliance with applicable collective agreements, McGill policies and regulations, and Quebec laws.
“Such immediate measures may include: voluntary measures (i.e., those agreed to by the alleged perpetrator), instituting a “cease contact” order; devising and implementing alternate academic, extra-curricular, residential or work arrangements in regard to the person(s) concerned; where the alleged perpetrator is a Member of the University community, removing them from campus or limiting their role, privileges or duties, in accordance with applicable University policies, regulations and collective agreements.”
The policy would apply to all members of the McGill community and would be subject to triennial review. In addition the Provost would be required to report to Senate biennially on the application of the policy.