OUSA looks to expand “outdated” Women’s Campus Safety grant

Updated paper could make salaries, program evaluations eligible for funding

OUSA seeking to expand “outdated” Women’s Campus Safety Grant.
Journal File Photo

In the lead-up to its next General Assembly meeting in March, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) is seeking to modernize the 1991 Women’s Campus Safety grant.

William Greene, AMS vice-president (University Affairs), is co-authoring a sexual violence policy paper with student leaders titled the Gender-based and Sexual Violence Prevention Response paper. Working with member schools McMaster University, Trent University and the University of Western Ontario, Greene said his role is to focus on expanding the Women’s Campus Safety grant.

“What we’ve found is that it’s a very outdated grant,” Greene said in an interview with The Journal. “We’re actually looking for a significant terms of reference update.”

As previously reported by The Journal, the Ontario government doubled the Women’s Campus Safety grant funding for the 2019-20 year in response to preliminary data from the Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey. Greene said that while OUSA is asking the Province to maintain the funding increase, the Alliance is also seeking to make non-eligible expenses, like salaries and program evaluations, allowable.

Greene said that when the grant was first established nearly 30 years ago, it focused on campuses’ physical environments and making infrastructure changes.

“It's no longer about trimming hedges and installing blue lights. It's about larger programs aimed at changing the culture and programs that are meant to evaluate those programs,” he said. “Now, with education and knowledge, we’re realizing these aren’t the most effective prevention tactics, because the majority of sexual violence [incidents] aren’t done by strangers in dark alleys.”

According to Greene, expanding initiatives eligible for the grant could lead to evaluating programs like Flip the Script or providing salaries for prevention and response trainers.

“A lot of institutions are putting forward programs, a lot of students are coming up with programs to try and combat sexual violence. But it's difficult to know the effectiveness of these programs, whether they're actually translating into actual results,” he said. “We have to see, [are programs] reducing instances of sexual violence? Is it better supporting survivors when it comes to disclosures? Are these things working?”

Greene added that the name of the grant itself should be updated as well.

“That name in and of itself is not gender-inclusive, it's not gender-neutral. It doesn't actually reflect what this grant is being used for,” he said. “Indigenous students are at a higher risk of sexual violence, students with disabilities are at a higher risk, persons of color are at a higher risk. These are very particular vulnerable group instances of sexual violence, and to just categorize it as the Women's Campus Safety grant does a disservice to all the different communities that are particularly impacted.”

He said in the updated policy paper, OUSA is also seeking to implement campus climate surveys every three years, similar to the 2018 Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey. While OUSA is using the preliminary data released in 2019 to inform the updated policy paper, Greene said the Alliance will incorporate the remaining data should it be released in the near future.

“That’s long-term, the Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey. We're going to continue to fight for that data,” he said. “But we're also looking forward to advocating to the government to have something concrete so that we can continue a sustained effort to combat sexual violence.”

In lieu of the full survey results, Greene said OUSA is looking to best practices, citing research from across Canada, the US, and the 2019 Courage to Act report.

“The Courage to Act report is a primary document that we're creating a lot of our basis for in terms of best practices and in terms of policy construction. We're using statistics, we're using scholars in the field, but that Courage to Act report is very instrumental.”

Greene said he believes the paper will be successful because sexual violence is an issue OUSA has had the most success with when working with the Province, this year.

“This is a non-partisan issue to keep students safe,” he said. “A lot of our better conversations with the government were around sexual violence prevention response policies. That that was one of the priorities where we are getting the most engagement.”

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