SSMU condemns administration’s lack of response to sexual assault case, calls for university-funded sexual assault centre, consent workshops

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The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU)’s Legislative Council will lobby McGill to improve the resources available for sexual assault victims, following a vote at the Nov. 21 Council meeting.

The call for action comes after students and student organizations have expressed concern about the McGill administration’s treatment of a case involving the alleged sexual assault of a former Concordia student by three former Redmen football players. The administration said they learned of the case in May 2013, but did not take action against the accused because the case was under the jurisdiction of the Montreal police.

The motion passed by Council also condemns McGill’s treatment of the case.

“McGill’s lack of response to this incident perpetuates the normalization and silence surrounding sexual assault, and thus perpetuates rape culture,” the motion reads. “SSMU requests that the McGill Athletics department requires all athletes and staff to take consent and safe space workshops at the beginning of the season.”

According to the motion, SSMU will also lobby McGill for the creation of a sexual harassment support and advocacy office funded by the university. While the Sexual Assault Center of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS) provides services to students of sexual assault, the service’s funds come from student fees, and student volunteers—rather than professionals—run the service.

“[There is] no sexual crisis centre funded by the university [operating] budget,” SSMU Vice-President University Affairs Joey Shea said. “If McGill is committed to supporting sexual assault victims, McGill should put its money where its mouth is.”

The motion also states that SSMU will require all senators, councillors, and staff members to participate in workshops that address sexual consent and safe space.

Although the motion passed, some councillors emphasized the need to acknowledge an email sent out earlier the same day by Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens, which outlined steps the administration will take to address the criticisms of the way McGill deals with sexual assault. These steps include an open forum on sexual consent scheduled to take place early next semester and the creation of a co-ordinator position to help improve the resources available to victims of sexual assault at the university.

“[This] motion was more relevant this morning [before the email],” Science Representative Devin Bissky Dziadyk said.

Councillors also expressed concern that the motion specifically mentions McGill athletics.

“Don’t target Athletics; make it more general,” Engineering Representative Anikke Rioux said.

A move to amend the motion to reflect this position ultimately failed.