Suspended sexual violence disclosure requirement lets down students

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This editorial discusses sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers. The Journal uses “survivor” to refer to those who have experienced sexual assault. We acknowledge this term is not universal.

Students are entitled to agency over their own experiences processing sexual violence. Through Queen’s updated sexual violence policy, that agency has been taken away from survivors. 

It can only be returned by eliminating the controversial disclosure requirement from the school’s updated policy.

The University has suspended its requirement that dictated that non-health care University staff must provide a student’s name, email address, and student number to Queen’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator (SVPRC) following their private sexual violence disclosure. 

This has triggered concern from faculty and students alike, which was brought to Senate earlier this month. 

In response, Queen’s temporarily suspended the requirement and held its first open community meeting to discuss the policy, hosted by Teri Shearer, deputy provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion).

But merely suspending this violating disclosure requirement isn’t enough. Given the substantial backlash from stakeholders, Queen’s should permanently strike the requirement from its sexual violence policy.

Students’ and professors’ criticisms are well-founded. The introduction of the requirement—which was only on the Queen’s Sexual Violence Prevention & Response website after the policy was passed—was far from transparent or public. 

The requirement itself removes autonomy from survivors, who may not want their personal information sent to the SVPRC following a disclosure made to a trusted staff member, like a professor or a Bystander Intervention Training facilitator. 

The University’s first responsibility should be to its students, ensuring their safety and comfort on their own terms. However, Queen’s appears to prioritize its image over students’ wellbeing in its response to the policy’s criticism.

This is clear through the school’s efforts to triage concerns—underpublicizing open forums and glossing over details—rather than stepping up to solve the issue, which would force administrators to admit the requirement’s flaws.

Last week’s open community meeting failed to address the community’s mounting concerns about the policy and its future. 

This is due in part to Queen’s decision to have the deputy provost host the session, though she wasn’t involved in decisions around the requirement. 

Instead, the University should have respected student concerns by bringing in an administrator more qualified to speak to the policy’s execution and development.

This haphazard approach speaks to the institution’s priorities. Instead of providing real accountability for Queen’s mistake, Shearer’s inability to speak to the policy and process enabled her to evade answering questions. 

From the community’s adverse response, it’s clear the University didn’t adequately consider student concerns before updating its policy. The disclosure requirement’s mere existence lets down the students the policy is meant to support. 

Instead of concerning itself with appearances, the University should do everything in its power to rectify its error—beginning with removing the disclosure requirement for good.

—Journal Editorial Board

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