SSMU and PGSS respond to McGill Draft Policy against Sexual Violence

On Oct. 12, the Student’s Society of McGill University (SSMU) and the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) released a collaborative consultation report outlining the results of focus groups conducted to collect comments and recommendations on the university’s Draft Policy against Sexual Violence. The focus groups were conducted between Sept. 23 and Oct. 3 to give students the opportunity to share their thoughts on the draft policy. 

According to Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures and Equity) and Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law Angela Campbell, the McGill Administration has been receptive to student recommendations regarding the policy. 

“Student opinions are important to us, this is why the McGill Provost and Vice Principal of McGill University, Christopher Manfredi, decided to fund the focus groups [that the SSMU and PGGS held to collect student recommendations in efforts to improve the policy],” Campbell said. “Many of the recommendations put forth are feasible and in line with the views of the administration. They are helping us build a policy as robust for the university as possible. They are crucial to moving an effective policy forward.”

The focus groups were run by trained members of the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS), a volunteer-run organization that provides support to sexual assault survivors on campus. Eight sessions were held, with two closed groups for sexual violence survivors and an additional group on the MacDonald Campus; approximately 25 students participated. 

According to PGSS Equity Commissioner Angela Yu, it was important that focus groups were held in order to ensure that the policy would be representative of all students at McGill. 

“The reason behind the recommendations was to stress the fact that broader community feedback in regards to the policy was needed, one that focused specifically on experiences and survivors,” Yu said.“It’s a policy that needs to be both proactive and reactive.”

Making resources readily available for survivors is essential, Yu explained. She stated that the policy should act as a guide for anyone who has experienced sexual violence.

“The policy needs to outline what resources exist on campus, so survivors know and can use what’s available to them,” Yu said. “A huge issue is that most people aren’t clear on where to go or who to speak to.” 

Yu also stressed that the policy needs to consider all forms of sexual violence and be accountable for preventing such violence in the community.

“We want the policy to recognize the nature of sexual violence and that it affects people [differently],” Yu said. “The university needs to understand that and be accountable to everyone, have a centralized recording procedure, and articulate the consequences of sexual violence clearly to the community.”

According to SSMU Vice-President (VP) University Affairs Erin Sobat, the policy needs to be as transparent to students as possible. This will allow the community, to understand the way in which reporting cases should be handled. 

“It’s important to make clear that the intention of the policy is to centralize the process for disclosures and reports, the ability to get support without a filing process,” Sobat said. “There needs to be a strong [outline of] what outcomes are available to those affected.”

Sobat also felt that listening to students and survivors was the only way for the administration to ensure the effectiveness of the new policy. 

“We thought it was really important to hear from students and survivors who have [navigated]  reporting sexual violence issues, so that the report meets the needs of those most affected,” Sobat added. 

The Policy against Sexual Violence will be presented to Senate in November or December.

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