Equity Grievance Service combats harassment & discrimination

ASUS equity commissioner talks policy accessibility

Participants in the EGS consultation to be compensated $20.

The Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) launched the Equity Grievance Service (EGS) consultation as a way for equity-deserving students to share their experiences of harassment or discrimination.

The consultation is for any students who have experienced harassments or discrimination at Queen’s or have thoughts on the accessibility of equity resources on campus. ASUS hopes to receive at least 50 participants complete consultations by Nov. 26.

Yara Hussein, ArtSci ’23, Equity Commissioner at ASUS, said EGS will be a student-run service through ASUS. She explained the consultation will inform a new advocacy initiative concerning harassment and discrimination reporting on campus.

“The service will be provided to any equity-deserving and marginalized students and will be managed by future trained volunteers,” Hussein said in an interview with The Journal.

The consultations will operate one to two, with Hussein and Samara Lijiam, AMS Social Issues Commissioner, present for participants to share their thoughts on equity and advocacy resources on campus.

All participants will be compensated $20 for their time.

According to Hussein, this consultation was largely inspired by the Queen’s Campus Climate (QCC) 2021 snapshot report.

“Some of the statistics in [the QCC report] showed how only 2 per cent of the survey takers, who experienced harassment, actually reported it through the official university reporting system,” she said.

According to Hussein, the QCC 2021 report demonstrated that students are more comfortable disclosing such experiences with their peers or close friends rather than university officials.

“Usually in moments of distress, especially after an incident of harassment or discrimination, specifically towards an equity deserving student on campus, […] it can be very daunting to go through a process where they have to recount the trauma they may have experienced,” Hussein said. 

She added that students may often feel too overwhelmed to report to Queen’s Human Rights and Equity Office (HREO).

“This started our consultation period,” Hussein said.

“We asked for students who have gone through the human rights and equity office what their experiences were like during that period, and how the office accommodated for their needs, and what needs were really met.”

Earlier in September, Queen’s announced their new Harassment and Discrimination Prevention Response (H&D) policy.

The revised H&D policy aims to address concerns on the lack of a clear pathway to bring forward reports of harassment and discrimination. It also replaced the University’s two existing policies—the Senate Harassment/Discrimination Complaint Policy and Procedure and the interim Workplace Harassment & Discrimination policy.

In the face of these revisions, Hussein said policy language, especially coming from the institution, creates boundaries for students. 

“Large vernacular and policy language make it kind of inaccessible for students to understand exactly what kind of measures are in place to support,” she explained.

As a result, many students who experience harassment, discrimination, or assault tend to keep it to themselves or amongst their close friends, Hussein said.

In an email sent to The Journal, Jean Pfleiderer, associate director of Human Rights Advisory Services, said an advisor can assist in identifying and articulating students’ concerns, like discrimination, harassment, or failure to accommodate.

“[A Human rights advisor] can also, with your permission, speak to people on your behalf in order to help resolve problems and may, where appropriate, attend meetings as a support person, although they do not serve as an advocate or representative,” Pfleiderer wrote.

“The HREO continues to review and adapt its programs in service to the Queen’s community. Most recently, we have been pleased to be part of the team introducing the new Harassment and Discrimination Prevention and Response Policy and training, including the development of infographics and other media to help people navigate the new system.”

While the HREO is currently facilitating policy training to provide clarity on reporting instances of harassment, Hussein said most of the engagement comes from faculties or student leaders, which often doesn’t reach the average student.

Additionally, any grievances brought in to HREO or Sexual Violence Prevention and Response (SVPR) services allow students to bring their own advocate while reporting. Hussein said not a lot of students are aware of this aspect of policy.

“The trained volunteer [from EGS] will essentially act as an advocate who is allowed to sit on a call with the student and the officer,” Hussein said.

“We’re hoping to have our Equity Grievance Service volunteers trained in [policy] again, just to provide and increase the awareness about this policy.”

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