Following the recent passing of Bill 23, the provincial government’s Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act, all post-secondary institutions in B.C., including UFV, are required to create an official sexual violence and misconduct policy.
As stated in the bill, the policy needs to include procedures for making, and responding to, complaints or reports of sexual violence.
While the bill is already in place, institutions have one year to create and implement a policy.
In order to create the policy for UFV, a committee will be formed, which will be co-chaired by UFV’s vice-president students Jody Gordon and Student Union Society (SUS) president Sukhi Brar.
“We’re just in the phase of putting that team together, but in preparation for that, Sukhi and I have sat down and looked at a number of best practices,” Gordon said. “There’s some good work that’s been done throughout Canada that we have been reviewing.”
While the committee will not be in place until the fall, Gordon noted that it will include faculty and staff with related research backgrounds or work experience.
The bill does not specify how the policy should be formed and Gordon saw this as an opportunity to include student feedback by involving SUS.
“Just from the conversations I’m having [with other student unions], we’re definitely helping a lot more and have a lot more student involvement and input,” Brar said. “Having us involved from the start in shaping this policy helps students understand how this serves our student population best.”
While Gordon also noted that including student feedback helps students learn outside of the classroom, she saw student input as a way for the university to be open with their intentions on the issue.
“It needs to be very transparent,” she said. “This is not work that’s done at all in secrecy; it needs to be work that is out there for people to see what stages we’re at, and when various consultations will occur.”
While the writing of the policy won’t be starting until the committee is formed, Brar noted that there are already challenges that she is anticipating.
“It’s a very complex topic and there’s a lot of opinions and a lot of different approaches that people have taken in approaching how this policy might look,” she said. “It’s going to be challenging to identify what works for our campus.”
“At the end of the day policy is just paper,” Gordon added, “but it’s really what it will mean to us in terms of how we approach it, how we talk about it, how we engage with these very difficult issues.”
After the committee has drafted the policy it will be sent to Senate for consultation and the Board of Governors for approval, with a tentative implementation date of April 2017.