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Letter to the editor: Clarifying McGill’s Policy Against Sexual Violence

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I write to respond to two pieces that ran in The McGill Tribune on Oct. 17: "Editorial: On sexual violence reform, it's McGill's turn" and Caitlin Kindig's news piece, "Our Turn action plan gives McGill's Sexual Violence Policy a C- grade." Both articles contain misunderstandings or incomplete information about McGill's Policy against Sexual Violence. I would like to provide some clarifying information.

It is important for Tribune readers to know that the Policy was unanimously passed by Senate and the Board in Fall 2016 after months of intensive, focused, dedicated collaboration and consultation with multiple campus stakeholder groups, especially students. Upon adoption, it was understood that the Policy can and will evolve to ensure it responds fully and fairly to the needs of the University community. Two committees—both of which have broad student representation—are working to ensure the effective implementation of the Policy and a deeper understanding of campus sexual violence, and responses to it, at McGill. These committees, led by Associate Professors Lucy Lach and Shaheen Shariff, are actively seeking student input; indeed, students will receive a survey from Shariff’s committee this week. Lach and Shariff's committees will submit final reports this spring that will include recommendations to further McGill’s efforts at sexual-violence prevention and response.

It is also essential for our community to know about McGill's new Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education (O-SVRSE), and to be aware of the outstanding work it does. The O-SVSRE was established as a result of the Policy. Its full-time staff is dedicated to the crucial work of supporting and coordinating resources for survivors. It seeks to ensure that survivors will not be required to disclose an incident of sexual violence more than one time, and to support any survivor who wishes to report an incident of sexual violence. Additionally, the O-SVRSE is charged with developing campus-wide education and awareness-raising strategies with a view to sexual-violence prevention.

Finally, I stress two key points that seem to be misunderstood and misrepresented. First, the Policy was established with deep student involvement and an institutional commitment to engage with students and other campus stakeholders as we continuously review the Policy and its application, so that it reflects the needs and realities of our campus. Second, the Policy is broad and inclusive in its scope and extends to all forms of sexual violence, on campus or not, and to all members of the McGill community, including faculty and staff.

 

Angela Campbell is the Associate Vice-Provost (Equity and Academic Policies) at McGill University, and a professor in the McGill Faculty of Law. 

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