York U "Interim Guidelines for Responding to Sexual Assault"
November 2016 - Call for support
On September 12, 2016, York University released “The Interim Guideline for Responding to Sexual Violence”. This guideline will remain in effect until January 1, 2017 when York University will institute an official sexual violence response policy (herein referred to as the “official policy”) in compliance with the Ontario Government’s Bill 132.
It appears that the guideline will serve as a fundamental building block for the new sexual assault policy at York University.
We are deeply concerned that this policy is strategically marketed by administration as “survivor-centric” yet fails to address long-standing concerns from self-identified survivors over lack of institutional support.
It is our position that the interim policy is not survivor-centric due to the persistence of the tribunal process and its silence on procedures that will directly impact the survivor as outlined below.
We demand York University live up to its rhetoric, and create policy that is truly survivor-centric.
To our dismay, the “new” guidelines include almost no new developments from the existing York University policy. Even more concerning, is the absence of resources devoted to the Sexual Violence Response Office created by the policy.
We are currently seeking support for the recommendations being brought to York University by Silence is Violence at a consultation on November 14, 2016.
To voice your concerns about the sexual assault policy – Please e-mail Rob Castle (firstname.lastname@example.org) directly and cc: Silence is Violence (email@example.com).
Summary of Concerns:
1. York University announced the opening of a Sexual Violence Response Office (SVRO) in October 2016. However, the SVRO is little more than an extra duty added to the functions of the Office of Student Community Relations (OSCR). A Sexual Violence Response Office has potential, but it must be external to administration, be adequately resourced, staffed, and trained, and its development should not come from a top-down approach.
2. The Interim Policy contains almost no new developments from the existing York University policies and procedures. The Student Code of Rights and Responsibilities, which applies to all non-academic forms of student misconduct, continues to apply to sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence, when perpetrated by a student. This procedure has not been updated, nuanced, or amended in any form.
As it currently stands, students who report sexual assault and seek remedy must be processed through a university tribunal – the same process that is utilized for other student code of conduct infractions such as excessive noise making. Fact-finding and decision making is left to three community members (administrative staff, faculty and a student) who do not have any specialized knowledge of sexual assault or gendered violence.
This approach to fact finding and decision making is inherently inappropriate and discriminatory. York University adamantly defends this process of fact-finding in cases of sexual assault using language of ‘due process’. It is our position that York University does not fully understand the concept of due process and that it can be achieved fully through other mechanisms of fact-finding such as external investigation.
It is our position that York University is more concerned about lawsuits for taking action against sexual assault than truly implementing ‘survivor-centric’ policy and procedure.
3. Different procedural mechanisms apply depending on whether the ‘complainant’ (survivor) or the ‘respondent’ (the accused) are staff or students. Further, there is no clarity on which procedure applies when a complainant is both a staff member and a student.
4. There is also insufficient clarity on when, in what circumstances, and under whose deciding authority, the Centre for Human Rights (CHR) investigation process will be used, as opposed to the Office of Student Community Relations (OSCR) process (and/or internal employment processes) in response to sexual violence.
1. Develop a stand-alone sexual violence procedure.
2. Make the Sexual Violence Response Office real.
3. Use external investigators to investigate all reports of sexual violence.
4. Ensure meaningful evaluation and reporting
5. Provide substantive training to York University employees
6. Commit to institutional accountability and the rights of community members
7. Ensure that counseling services are available to all survivors of sexual assault regardless of legal status.
Mandi Gray, co-founder of Silence is Violence, is currently in mediation with York University at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal arguing that their response to sexual assault discriminates against survivors, who are statistically more likely to be woman-identified.
These recommendations will also be re-visited by Mandi Gray during mediation with York University.
York University has appointed the Vice President of Finance and Administration, Rob Castle, to chair the working group developing the sexual assault policy.
It is deeply concerning that despite York University claiming to be a top research university that their sexual assault policy working group did not consult any experts in the area of sexual assault.
To sign the petition, please click here.
About Silence is Violence: Silence is Violence is a grassroots activist group that mobilized in response to the sexual assault of a Ph.D student and member of CUPE 3903, Mandi Gray by fellow PhD student, Mustafa Ururyar. Silence is Violence came together to take action after learning of the lack of a coordinated, cohesive, and/or survivor-led response to sexual assault at York University. Since our inception in March of 2015, Silence is Violence has become a movement on Canadian campuses, with chapters at the University of British Columbia, McGill University, the University of Toronto, and a chapter for a collective of Nova Scotia-based universities.