Senate discusses consent, mental health policies

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Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens stated that two new sections would be added to the McGill University Athletics and Recreation Guide to Varsity Sports for Student Athletes to further define varsity student-athlete context and varsity sport guiding principles and policies, in response to a question raised by SSMU Senator Kareem Ibrahim and VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan.

McGill Athletics had also agreed to become the first department in the university to train staff and coaches in a bystander intervention program. Dyens added that the varsity document will be available to the public after legal review.

The discussion was held in light of McGill’s controversial responses to an ongoing sexual assault case last year involving three Redmen football players. In a follow-up question, Stewart-Kanigan inquired about the possibility of institutionalizing consent training for athletes.

According to Dyens, varsity athletes should not be treated differently from other students.

“My position is that we’re not going to target one group of students for these kinds of things,” he said. “We want to promote this to all McGill students [….] This being said […] we have asked the varsity council to meet with our harm reduction councillor to develop policies with [athletes] and develop training with them.”

Stewart-Kanigan also brought up the topic of suspension of position for individuals in ongoing sexual assault cases.

“If [disciplinary officers] feel that it is necessary, they can use Article 21 [of the Student Code of Conduct] to exclude students from either part or the entirety of campus or McGill activities while the investigation is ongoing,” said Andre Costopoulos, dean of students. “If [Article 21] is used twice with the same student, it requires intervention [….] So it is a measure that we can use to address situations in which we have concerns about a specific individual on campus.”

Mental health

Senate also saw discussion of questions regarding McGill’s commitment to implementing pre-arrival mental health advising for students in transitional periods of their academic life.

As a result of the Joint Board-Senate meeting on mental health last year and the recommendations of a report by the Mental Health Working Group, McGill is anticipating the appointment of a two-year contract for a mental health consultant in January 2015, with the goal of working with stakeholders across the university.

“We’re developing a plan for trying to involve all stakeholders in our community, so it’s going to take some time,” said Executive Director of Student Services Jana Luker.

According to Costopoulos, McGill has also been increasing mental health resources for students, including McGill 101 videos that provided incoming students with information about counselling.

“[Campus Life Engagement] has been doing a lot of work [for] outreach [to] incoming students about pre-arrival tools,” Costopoulos said. “There are a number of [resources] that are new this year—McGill 101 being one of them.”

Provincial budget and impact

Another topic of discussion involved McGill’s release of information regarding changes to the university’s operating budget as a result of cuts to government funding. McGill stated that a projected operating grant in April 2014 of $360 million had dropped to $345 million after an update from Quebec on Sept. 3, 2014.

Principal Suzanne Fortier stated that the $15 million drop in budget would not result in any fiscal disasters.

“We had anticipated at McGill that the [2015] budget would not have the kind of resources talked about [in April],” Fortier said. “Although the figures are not what we would like to see, we were prepared for them. We’re not in a crisis situation at this university, because we had anticipated these lower levels of investments.”