Beginning Summer 2019, McGill University will roll out mandatory online training modules for students, faculty, and staff on sexual violence awareness and consent. At a Feb. 15 information session for the university’s major stakeholders, Dean of Students Christopher Buddle and Associate Provost (Equity and Academic Policy) Angela Campbell revealed that students and staff will have separate modules, and that, due to time restraints, the administration will not hold consultation sessions about the modules prior to their implementation.
The implementation of the interactive modules fulfills the requirements outlined in Bill 151, a provincial act to combat sexual violence in higher education institutions. The training will be 30-60 minutes long and cover topics such as bystander intervention and support for survivors in addition to sexual violence and consent training. The modules for staff will also inform them about the implications of power dynamics, including how to navigate student-staff and staff-staff relationships. Although Concordia University and KnowledgeOne, an eLearning consultation company, produced the modules, Buddle explained that they will be tailored for the McGill community based on advice from relevant sectors including Human Resources, IT Services, and Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education (OSVRSE).
“It’s a big investment of time, energy, and money to develop this, and rather than reinventing [the modules], we can work with Concordia directly so that the McGill perspective can be incorporated,” Buddle said. “There are links to our policies and procedures [integrated into the modules] as well as which offices are appropriate to get support. For example, for students, it could be SACOMSS [Sexual Assault Center of the McGill Students’ Society] or OSVRSE and for staff, it could also be OSVRSE or the Employee and Family Assistance Program.”
Future students will only be able to register for courses after they’ve fulfilled their training requirements, with faculty and returning students undergoing training in Fall 2019, and administrative and support staff beginning their training in Winter 2020. Meanwhile, the completion of the modules will tie into faculty members’ annual merit process. However, Campbell acknowledged the difficulties of enforcing the training and was unsure if McGill can bar uncooperative faculty members from research resources.
“A professor can decide that they don’t want to fill out their annual report, and the consequences of that are that they don’t get their salary adjustment,” Campbell said. “We are wrestling with [a situation where] a professor fills out their report but on the space where it says ‘have you completed the online education modules’, they tick ‘No.’ If the prof is refusing to take the module could you then say ‘no access to graduate students?’ My sense is that’s possible but I’m truly hoping that that sort of situation will not happen.”
Accessed through MyCourses, the modules will not replace any existing workshops or training that educate on sexual assault and consent, such as those for Server Training and Frosh. Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) Equity Commissioner Tristan Renondin, who was also Head of Leaders and Orientation Staff for Engineering Frosh in 2018, is hopeful about the modules, but is concerned that differing advice among training on sexual violence prevention would confuse participants. For instance, he referenced how the modules will use the “3 D’s” of bystander intervention while Frosh uses the “4 D’s.”
“We have 800 frosh leaders and O-staff that we train throughout the summer, and then Frosh also has a training program in place for incoming students,” Renondin said. “I think it’s important that the material of this training is communicated properly to Campus Life Engagement because we’ll probably have to modify some of our content. I’m scared that […] differences will build up over time and devalue the content of the McGill-wide] training.”
Buddle and Campbell noted that they will consider publishing the module transcripts before the training becomes available.