Board of Trustees approves new draft of sexual violence policy

The Journal breaks down the policy’s major potential changes

If passed, the new policy will have a significant number of changes.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo
On April 17, the Board of Trustees approved a new draft of the University’s sexual violence policy, marking its first revision since its implementation in 2016.
 
The scope of the revisions are wide, ranging from altered definitions to complete overhauls of protocol.
 
The Journal reached out to Barb Lotan, Queen’s sexual violence prevention and response coordinator (SVPRC), but she was unavailable for comment on the proposed changes.
 
Notably, the draft policy would usher in changes surrounding the confidentiality of complainants.
 
The current policy states the University “recognizes that disclosures are often made in confidence, and that the student may have an expectation of confidentiality.”
 
The person to whom a disclosure is made may consult with the SVPRC for advice, but it is not mandated to do so.
 
If implemented, the amended policy would require university employees who are not health care providers to “immediately notify” the SVPRC and “answer the SVPRC’s inquiries about the disclosure.”
 
The way the University will handle complaints could also change. Under the draft policy, a respondent must be a member of the University at the time a complaint is filed.
 
A new clause titled ‘Alternative Resolutions’ stipulates the University “can informally resolve a complaint, with or without the agreement of the complainant, in circumstances in which it considers such a resolution appropriate.”
 
No examples of circumstances where this clause may be used are offered.
 
Hearing procedures are now outlined more specifically in the draft policy.
 
The conductor of the hearing has been changed from a student conduct panel to the vice-provost, dean of student affairs, or an “unbiased and trained member of the University Community” chosen by the vice-provost and dean.
 
The draft policy would also tighten appeal guidelines.
 
A written appeal must now be submitted within 10 days of an adjudicator’s decision. Additionally, the policy specifies appeals wouldn’t be re-litigated through hearings, and a respondent must prove either the procedure the adjudicator used was unfair or the decision was unreasonable based on evidence.
 
The policy would also expand the definition of sexual harassment.
 
Whereas the current policy requires “a course of actions” for a complaint to qualify as an allegation of sexual harassment, the draft policy would allow single incidents to be considered sexual harassment.
 
The listed examples of behaviours qualifying as sexual harassment now include the “implied or expressed” promise of benefits or advancement in return for sexual favours, as well as threats of reprisals for rejecting unwanted advances.
 
The draft policy also shifts the responsibility to address anonymous complaints from the SVPRC to Campus Security Emergency Services.
 
In 2016, the Ontario government mandated post-secondary institutions to implement sexual violence policies and amend them every three years.
 
After the release of Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey results, the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities (MTCU) bumped the deadline up from January 2020 to this coming September. 
 
The shortened deadline is a result of the survey’s significant findings, which included statistics ranking Queen’s second among participating institutions for highest number of sexual harassment experiences disclosed by survey respondents. 
 
The Ministry also required universities to develop sexual violence task forces, made up of diverse student representatives. In March, Principal Daniel Woolf announced that the Queen’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Working Group (SVPRWG) would be transitioned into the required taskforce.
 
The University did not respond to a request for an update on the task force’s progress in time for publication.  
 

 

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