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(Zoé Yalden / The McGill Tribune)

Special Investigator appointed to combat sexual violence

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In an email addressed to members of the McGill community on Sept. 11, Provost Christopher Manfredi announced the appointment of Maître Caroline Lemay, an experienced lawyer, mediator, and ombudsperson, to the role of Special Investigator of sexual violence. In her role, Lemay will be responsible for investigating all reports of sexual violence on McGill’s campus and will be the single point of entry for all such reports. The appointment came in response to a student walkout and a Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) open letter in April 2018 that accused the McGill administration of mishandling sexual violence allegations.

 

Lemay will act independently of the McGill administration and any other disciplinary authority. The creation of her role is intended to alleviate student concerns that McGill’s internal review system is skewed against survivors.

 

Starting on Oct. 9, Lemay will lead investigations into reports of sexual violence against members of the McGill community. However, her mandate may not include reports filed before her term begins.

 

Connor Spencer, former vice-president external of SSMU, organizer of the May demonstrations, and member of Our Turn, a national organization addressing sexual violence on college and university campuses, expressed doubt about the scope of the investigation.

 

“The special investigator was a win for us, even if the role isn’t fully defined,” Spencer said. “[But] we’ve still got absolutely nothing about claims in the past.”

 

The second prong of McGill’s response to allegations of mishandled sexual violence reports is the Ad Hoc Senate Committee on Teaching Staff-Student Intimate Relationships, that will review McGill’s policy regarding relations between teaching staff and student relationships. The administration hopes that the working groups will create a comprehensive policy that will reconcile differences between the 2017 Policy on Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Prohibited by Law and the 2016 Policy against Sexual Violence while ensuring that the policy is in accordance with Quebec’s 2017 law regarding sexual violence on university campuses, Bill 151.

 

Manfredi emphasized that the ad hoc committee would have strong student representation in his May 10 email to the McGill community. Lemay herself was appointed by recommendation from a committee containing representatives of SSMU and other members of the McGill community.

 

Associate Provost (Equity and Academic Policies) Angela Campbell stated that students from various associations and the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS) would be part of the working groups. These students would represent the interests and input of their respective constituencies.

 

“We will also be looking at other ways to ensure wide and meaningful input and consultation from multiple stakeholders on campus,” Campbell said.

 

The Senate ad hoc committee on Teaching Staff-Student Intimate Relationships, held a town hall on Sept. 18 open to all McGill students. Participants were invited to provide suggestions for changes to McGill’s current policy on intimate relationships between staff and students.

 

In an opinion article published by The McGill Daily, David Collins, a PhD philosophy student, along with several anonymous members of the Philosophy Students’ Association and Philosophy Graduates’ Student Association, called on the administration to outright ban any relations between staff and students. This contrasts with the current policy, which only bans relations between teachers and their own students.

 

“By banning student-teacher relationships, McGill would join a number of universities with similar bans such as Harvard, Yale, and MIT, and would bring itself in line with policies governing professionals in other fields, such as healthcare providers,” the authors wrote.

 

The review of McGill’s sexual violence policy is intended to last through the fall semester.

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