UBC needs to revise their processes for dealing with sexual assault, according to an independent report commissioned by the university following delays of complaints filed by several women against a fellow student.
Paula Butler of Butler Workplace Solutions said in her report that Policy 3, which deals with human rights-based complaints, was particularly unclear, as it failed to explain the difference between a formal and informal complaint.
A lack of clarity around the university’s sexual assault and harassment policies caused at least one complaint to be delayed for up to 10 months, according to Butler.
“This combined with explanations from a UBC staff member that were unclear resulted in much confusion about the type of complaints being filed. One complainant filed a formal complaint in December 2014, and the day after she filed she believed that she had filed an informal complaint,” reads Butler’s report.
Additionally, Policy 3 is quite wordy, and only mentions the words “sexual assault” once.
“The lack of clarity, and the delay that flowed in part from this lack of clarity, reveals a flawed system,” the report says.
Other issues, including a hesitancy to fully investigate the student being accused of sexual assault and the accusers feeling silenced after they were denied the opportunity to present a statement at a UBC department meeting over it concerns it was defamatory.
Interim UBC president Martha Piper said there’s a clear need to change the language of some of their policies.
“Overall, the review pointed to a system with flaws for dealing with sexual assault and the need for clear direction and a more centralized, coordinated approach when students bring forward complaints of sexual assault,” she said in a statement.
Piper said the university has established a panel on sexual assault, which includes leading UBC experts on the subject.
“All of us at UBC have a role to play in addressing the societal issue of sexual assault. We have a duty and an obligation to ensure people who come forward with a complaint feel duly heard and that the reporting process is clearly understood. Together, we will continue to work collaboratively to provide a safe, respectful campus community,” said Piper.