University suspends sexual violence disclosure requirement

Deputy Provost Teri Shearer presented on sexual violence policy to AMS

Deputy Provost Teri Shearer presented at Oct. 15 AMS Assembly.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

Following criticism from students and faculty, the University suspended a requirement under the Queen’s sexual violence policy that required non-health care professionals to provide the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator (SVPRC) with a student’s name, email address, and student number following a disclosure of sexual violence.

Though the disclosure requirements weren’t specified in the language of the sexual violence policy, they were established through the policy’s implementation and posted online.

At press time, the disclosure requirements had been removed from the SVPRC’s website. Instead, information has been posted about two open community meetings to discuss the sexual violence policy. 

The requirement was suspended on Oct. 10, and Teri Shearer, deputy provost (academic operations and inclusion), presented to AMS Assembly later that night.

She explained the section of the sexual violence policy that was suspended and some reasons why the disclosure requirements were originally implemented.

“The changes to the policy were actually relatively few,” Shearer said. “The thought was that, well, this is a relatively minor infringement on [student] freedom to choose and it could save people from ending up in a really bad space.”

She said the University’s original intent behind the disclosure requirements was to increase student support following experiences of sexual violence.

“Sometimes there are patterns of behaviour that would suggest there might be a single predator affecting more than one person,” Shearer said.

She added that if information flows to one central location, the University could assess whether there’s a risk to the greater campus community.

Shearer also said the disclosure requirement was designed to decrease potential risk to the Queen’s community.

“Sometimes, despite the University’s best efforts, students fall through the cracks and don’t get the support they need,” she said. “One reason that students can fall through the cracks is because the person they chose to disclose to is either not trained to respond to disclosures of sexual violence or they’re not well-informed about supports available in the Queen’s community.”

She also pointed to a form professors were able to fill out prior to the suspension that could indicate whether the SVPRC should email the student or not due to safety concerns.

“We are still encouraging faculty members to indicate if an incident has occurred, because that does allow us to keep an eye out for risks, but to not report a name,” Shearer said.

AMS Response

AMS President Auston Pierce asked Shearer how long the sexual violence disclosure requirements would be suspended for.

Shearer said the requirements would be suspended until the University participated in sufficient consultations.

“It is my strong suspicion that the consultation period won’t be limited to just the two open meetings,” she said. “I think we’ll be looking for other feedback as well.”

Shearer also said she wasn’t involved in the sexual violence policy’s original revisions, but she did sit on the senior leadership board that approves them.

“I wasn’t part of the group who made the original decisions and I don’t know that I’ll be part of the group that revisits it,” she said.

Engineering Society President Delaney Benoit asked Shearer whether there’s any concern that the sexual violence policy requirements could deter students from making disclosures.

Shearer acknowledged that was a concern voiced by many different people.

“Conditions are sort of vague,” she said. “Part of what the group was thinking, I have been told, is that it’s better to be up front and just say if you’ve disclosed to a regular old employee, it’s not confidential to the extent that the name is passed along.”

Shearer added that if a student wants a disclosure to remain “one hundred per cent confidential,” they should disclose to a health care provider.

Health care providers are legally required to maintain patient confidentiality.

“Because there’s so much concern, we just want to have a conversation,” she said.

Liam Tharp, chair of the AMS Board of Directors, asked which stakeholders the University plans to engage throughout the consultation period and what other types of feedback the administration will solicit.

Shearer said the open meetings were scheduled in response to concerns brought to Senate over the sexual violence policy.

“The policy was put out for comment, there was consultation done with students, there were students on the group who crafted it,” she said. “But it was largely done through the summer, and it clearly didn’t get the attention of a large portion of the institution.”

The current version of the Queen’s sexual violence policy was posted for online public consultation in the 2019 winter term before being approved by the Board of Trustees on May 10.

With files from Carolyn Svonkin and Sydney Ko.

 

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