I don’t think anyone can argue that SFU forming a Sexual Violence and Misconduct Prevention, Education, and Support Policy is a bad thing. However, the draft that recently went public undoubtedly needs work. While the town hall consultations have raised a lot more questions than answers, the solutions are a lot simpler than you might think (or at least some of them are).
Below are a list of complaints raised by myself or others, and ideas of how to remedy them.
A lack of specific language:
As was brought up multiple times during the town hall, the policy lacks some specific language. Some found problems with the fact that the policy doesn’t outright say any and all sexual misconduct is wrong, and that it doesn’t completely list out what constitutes banned behaviour.
The problem with vague language in policy is that it leaves a lot of wiggle room. While that freedom of interpretation may seem like a good thing, it’s quite the opposite when a survivor comes forward and the committee tells them that what they experienced was not sexual misconduct. The final draft would be much better with firmer definitions.
“Mandates education but does not make education mandatory”:
A town hall attendee tweeted this quote from Dr. Jon Driver, vice-president (VP) academic and member of the policy working group. How can a policy preach education on sexual misconduct without teaching students (who, for one reason or another, don’t always know what consent is) what that means?
The draft policy says there will be “education for members of the University Community.” But with this training not appearing to be at all compulsory, the people that actually need it probably won’t go. Just how does SFU plan on making sure students learn?
Make education mandatory, and not just in residence. We teach every student what plagiarism is; we should probably teach them what crimes are, too.
A timeline for the central resource office would be nice:
I love the idea of a central resource office, but I’d also love some idea of when the office will be up and running, how it will be funded, etc. The students of Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre (SVPSC), who’ve worked on a similar project for the past year and a half, seem more than willing to help. Yet the tone of tweets from figures like Dr. Tim Rahilly (VP of students), saying that there have been “limited meetings” about who will spearhead creating the resource office, suggest that SFU administration still isn’t sure what to do.
Announcing this project before putting a plan in place is unacceptable. SFU needs a better idea of how the central resource office will be run before it starts worrying about a better name.
How will the school respond?
The sexual violence policy was written specifically for SFU, so why have both the policy and the people presenting it been so vague about what role the university will play when misconduct occurs? What is the university’s stance when their students commit sexual misconduct off-campus? How effective is this policy really going to be?
Honestly, these questions are a bit sticky. Not because they’re hard to answer (be more specific, hold the university accountable, etc.). It’s more because the university keeps covering up assaults, allegedly going as far as to ask the families of survivors to “keep quiet.”
Of course, the policy should include more detail on how administration will respond in the future. And If SFU starts working towards ending rape culture — with education, hint hint — they won’t have to worry so much about how incidents will affect their public relations. The policy needs to tell us, in more certain and complete terms, about the measures SFU will be obligated to take in countering sexual violence; otherwise, there’s just too much room for things to go wrong.