External panel completes review of Queen’s sexual violence policy

21 recommendations made, AMS gives input in review

Image by: Curtis Heinzl
The policy review informs future amendments to changes. 

21 recommendations have been made on the Queen’s sexual violence policy going into its triennial review.  

The University hired the Canadian Centre for Legal Innovation in Sexual Assault Response (CCLISAR) to perform an independent review of the Queen’s policy on sexual violence involving students. The findings were released on March 7 and will inform the triennial review process. 

“Focusing on being trauma-informed and survivor-centric, and then getting student feedback […] was the main focus of the policy review,” Kerry Roe, ArtSci ’24, and ASUS sexual violence prevention and response director, said in an interview with The Journal.

The policy review was designed to take an intersectional lens into the issues survivors face on campus. The report highlighted current challenges around ableism, colonialism, and marginalization of BIPOC students. 

The investigation and adjudication process exist to determine breaches of the Sexual Violence policy. The panel in-charge of the review recommend Queen’s Sexual Violence Policy be amended to remove the adjudication stage. 

“They’re moving away from an adjudicated or hearing model. Now, it’s going to be an investigator, they do a full investigation, they give the case—likely—to someone in student affairs. That person will make a decision based on was the policy violated, then moving forward with measures,” Roe said. 

Survivors often face the trauma of having to recount their stories multiple times. Roe believes this change will help limit the amount of times someone has to share their story. Further, she believes the recommended changes will speed up the process of investigations. 

“We heard from students and others who have supported complainants or respondents, that the perception is that investigations take too long,” the CCLISAR report said. 

As part of the adjudication process, the report said complainants who may be survivors of sexual violence should not be required to sign no-contact orders or have measures imposed on them after making a complaint—unless it compromises the respondent’s abilities to abide by resolution measures. 

In some cases, there was a disconnect between the facts and the conclusion of the cases. The report noted some perpetrators were found “not responsible” for sexual violence policy breaches, when the investigation notes showed a clear violation of the sexual violence policy.

“Another big time they’re looking at adding and practicing is called immediate measures, which is the idea that someone could have a situation dealt with whatever way is best with just a disclosure and not going through the formal complaints process,” Roe said.

There are a lot of limitations to this according to Roe, but she believes it offers more flexibility for survivors.

Rights to appeal are currently only given to the alleged perpetrators of sexual violence; survivors aren’t given that opportunity. The policy review recommends the ability for survivors to appeal cases as well. 

“Both the complaint and respondent will have the option to appeal […] They can always appeal, and that will be [a part of] the process instead of having an [adversarial] hearing,” Roe said.

A section of the policy review discussed the role of Residence Life staff in sexual violence disclosures. The review panel recommended the current Residence Life response to disclosure be revisited, and that informal investigation shouldn’t occur by Residence Life staff before a complaint. 

“We need to make sure things are being funnelled to Student Affairs and the [Sexual Violence Prevention and Response] office quickly, [so] we’re not having people in residence, especially students like dons, dealing with these things because they need to be handled very carefully,” Roe said.

Vice Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Ann Tierney and Associate Vice-Principal (Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusion) Stephanie Simpson both told The Journal in an interview that along with more major changes such as the adjudication, some changes can be implemented right away. 

“Looking at some of the letters and things students get—to do that plain language review, we’re going to make things more accessible, and easier to understand. That’s the kind of work we can do immediately,” Tierney said. 

Making enhancements to the annual report and the data available to the public is another initiative Tierney said the University would be working on without any major changes to the current policy.  

Other changes will be taken through a consultative working group involving community feedback. According to Tierney, these policy changes will involve an engaged task force, and the amendments will have to be finally approved by the Board of Trustees. 

“We were pleased to see in the report that reviewers noted that recommendations build on a very solid foundation. There was a real recognition and commitment to progressive change by everyone involved in the process—the people are very committed to this process,” Tierney said.  

For marginalized and racialized students on campus, Simpson said the University would continue to consult with services and units on campus that serve QTBIPOC students and international students. She said it’s important to have the collaboration and insights of those units. 

The AMS pushed for the acknowledgement of marginalized and under-represented voices in the sphere of policy changes, according to Chloë Umengan, AMS social issues commissioner (internal). 

“Through consultation with university stakeholders and the AMS’s involvement in the university’s Sexual Violence Prevention Response Task Force, the AMS has had the chance to give input on the larger review of the sexual violence policy at Queen’s; however, the AMS was not included directly in the policy writing process,” she said in a statement to The Journal

Umengan and the AMS declined to answer any follow-up questions about their non-involvement in the policy writing process. Umengan further declined to provide specific efforts the AMS was advocating for.

In a follow-up statement to The Journal, the University clarified the updated policy writing process has not begun.

Roe said she was pleased with student involvement and said there were many university administrators who deeply cared. Tierney and Simpson further highlighted the importance of student engagement in the process.

 

This article was updated with additional information on March 10 at 3 p.m.

Tags

Queen's, sexual violence policy, Sexual Violence Prevention and Response

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