The University of Northern British Columbia is taking the next steps to ensure a healthier and safer environment for the UNBC community by announcing a new set of recommendations designed to guide the University in addressing the issue of sexual violence on campus.
In the spring of 2014, UNBC created the President’s Task Force on Sexual Violence. That task force worked with students, faculty, staff, and community members to assess the implications of sexual violence within UNBC’s student body. The Task Force submitted its final report, including 13 recommendations, to UNBC President Daniel Weeks on Sept. 16.
“Sexual violence on University campuses, or anywhere for that matter, is simply not acceptable,” says Dr. Weeks. “The Task Force engaged in thoughtful and deliberate work, and genuine conversations, and I thank the members for their good work. Now, we must continue to participate in open, honest and compassionate conversations, and strive to ensure healthy and safe environments for our community.”
To address one recommendation of the task force, a steering committee will work with the University’s senior administration team as well as other community members as appropriate.
That committee was formally struck last week, and includes the following members: Faculty member Dr. Gary Wilson, Assistant Director Student Affairs Brenda Slomka, Northern Women’s Centre Executive Director Sarah Boyd, and Human Resources Manager Kerry Roberts.
This committee will focus directly on significant student consultation and community feedback and support the university’s senior administration team in the implementation of meaningful responses and initiatives, including recent legislation passed by the Government of B.C, Bill 23 – 2016, the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act, which requires every public university, college and institute in B.C. to develop a sexual misconduct policy.
Student engagement and participation is a critical element in the development of initiatives and policies. Dr. Weeks has met with representatives of the undergraduate and graduate student body leadership to involve them from the outset of this process.
UNBC recognizes there is a lot of work to do regarding the issue of sexual violence.
“The work of a steering committee or task force alone can’t effect change on an issue as far reaching as this one,” adds Dr. Weeks. “A community response that is created through thoughtful leadership at all levels, willing participation, genuine acceptance of the issue, and the courage to address it is our best way forward.”
· Within a year, UNBC develop a seamless protocol for receiving both confidential and non-confidential disclosures of sexual violence and how to then report that a disclosure has been received.
· UNBC provide trauma-informed training to university community members who are likely to receive reports of disclosures.
Identify the Personal and Academic Implications of Sexual Violence
· UNBC create an accessible environment for initiating disclosures of sexual violence towards students by providing a clearly communicated reporting and support system.
· Develop protocols for providing reasonable academic accommodations (e.g., academic scheduling, deferrals, etc.) and protocols for providing reasonable student support accommodations (e.g., housing room changes, extended counselling sessions, etc.).
Review of Current Policies and Procedures
· Utilize UNBC’s “Student Conduct Statement of Principles” procedures to investigate disclosures and where a student’s behaviour is deemed to have breached the policies of student standards of conduct. Recommendations of any appropriate penalty must follow the procedures outlined in the “Student Conduct Statement of Principles”.
· The steering committee ensures revisions to the current UNBC “Student Statement on Conduct Principles” policy, and to ensure the current policy will refer out to a new stand-alone policy on sexual violence.
· The steering committee ensures that UNBC adapts the Ministry’s Sexual Violence Guidelines for the UNBC context, and develops a stand-alone Sexual Violence policy.
Identify Faculty and Staff Responsibilities for Supporting Students
· Develop and deliver a plan to educate and train UNBC employees on how to provide initial supports for students who make a confidential disclosure, and what actions need to be taken by UNBC employees when the report is provided confidentially.
· Develop and deliver a plan to educate and train both UNBC students and employees on how to formally report disclosures of sexual violence, or how to support a student in seeking to formally report disclosures of sexual violence.
Review how Reported Cases are Managed
· UNBC should investigate software that can allow for multiple units to notify a single office when a report of a disclosure has been received, and to track the stages of support and investigations. A report should be produced outlining the benefits and costs of such software, and recommending UNBC’s next steps.
· That all UNBC employees who have some responsibility for supporting students who disclose incidents of sexual violence receive and be trained in utilizing communication protocols for responding to all reports.
Identify Educational Strategies for Pro-actively Creating a Nurturing Campus
· UNBC develop a coordinated, student-centred education risk reduction and prevention program that focuses on empowerment, not fear, and healthy interpersonal relationships for prospective student victims and perpetrators. Such programming must be research-based, and be accessible to students on all of our campuses. As an institution of higher learning, the development of a “re-education program” for perpetrators is also critical to a holistic education.