UBC has announced the formation of two new groups to help it tackle sexual assault on campus, after scathing criticism of its delayed system for dealing with complaints.
The first group is a sexual assault policy committee of 12 people – faculty members, staff and students from both the Okanagan and Vancouver campuses:
The committee will present a new draft sexual assault policy to UBC’s board of governors in June, setting out what the university should do when a sexual assault complaint is made.
The second group announced this week is a university panel on sexual assault, made up of four faculty members and a graduate student:
The panel will look at sexual assault at UBC and on campuses across Canada and make recommendations for education and preventative action that can be taken at the university.
It will also make recommendations to the policy committee in May.
The move comes after heavy criticism of UBC’s sexual assault policies, which, according to an independent report commissioned by the university, led to severe delays in dealing with complaints from several women against a fellow student.
In January, 80 faculty members actually published a letter apologizing to the UBC community for the school’s policies on addressing sexual assault.
Sara-Jane Finlay, Associate Vice-President of Equity and Inclusion at UBC, says the university is now bringing together some strong expertise to help improve procedure.
“Sexual assault is a crime like no other,” she told Vancity Buzz.
“We need to be finding the most supportive processes and policies to help survivors who come forward and ensure that due process and natural justice can occur.”
Finlay defended UBC’s policies up to now and said they had served UBC well in the past, but there was growing acceptance across Canada that more needed to change in the area of sexual assault.
“Policies are relatively static docs and often they only contain a broad statement of principles and accountability,” she said.
“All those are important, but the most important thing we can be doing is education and working towards prevention, because that is something that’s forward-moving and where we can work most closely with our community.”