UPEI has been given a D+ for its efforts to prevent sexual violence in a recently released report by national sexual violence prevention group Our Turn.
The report evaluated the policies of fourteen Canadian universities, focusing on areas like complaint processes, education, and prevention. UPEI received a score of 59/100, the sixth lowest score of the universities reviewed.
Compared to other institutions, UPEI received poor grades when it came to statistics reporting and defining consent effectively. UPEI was also the sole university in Canada to receive zero points for its education component.
The report was produced by Our Turn, a movement composed of Canadian student associations committed to preventing sexual violence and supporting survivors. It began as a group of Carleton University students who disagreed with their administration’s approach to drafting a new sexual violence policy. The movement expanded when the students realized their experience was not unique to their campus.
The UPEI Student Union joined the group in August 2017 as a way to be a part of the nationwide movement, and also benefit from the group’s resources. “Our Turn would prove an incredibly valuable resource for us moving forward as we work with the university administration to draft a new stand-alone sexual assault policy and to reexamine programming and services dealing with sexual violence on campus,” says Taya Nabuurs, Vice President Academic and External of the UPEISU.
Currently, the only policy that addresses sexual violence at UPEI is the 2007 Fair Treatment Policy. The D+ that UPEI received from Our Turn did not surprise Nabuurs, who said, “ I’d reviewed the policy checklist prior to the release of the report and knew that UPEI’s Fair Treatment Policy would by no means “pass with flying colours” when marked against Our Turn’s criteria.”
University Says Changes Are Coming
The Sexual Violence Prevention & Response Task Force held their first round of Campus Consultations on October 18th, with an invitation to students, staff, and faculty to give their feedback regarding education programming and the campus culture surrounding sexual violence.
At this consultation, UPEI said that a new, stand-alone sexual assault policy will go to the Board of Governors for approval in November. The policy, drafted by UPEI, is being reviewed and implemented by the UPEI Sexual Violence Prevention & Response Task Force, and will likely be implemented by January.
The new stand-alone sexual assault policy will address education and prevention programming at UPEI, which could take different shapes. For example, it was proposed that UPEI could hold education seminars every year, this idea, however, is still in its forming stages.
The Cadre reached out to Nabuurs for a comment on whether or not UPEI’s new policy will address many of the concerns outlined in the Our Turn Report:
“I think that the forthcoming policy will address many of these concerns, if not all,” said Nabuurs. “The goal right now is to ensure that the new policy is as solid and thorough as possible when it goes to the Board of Governors. The UPEISU will work to ensure that the suggestions of Our Turn are implemented in UPEI’s policy wherever possible. There are a number of suggestions to the draft which the UPEISU has made already which were informed by the Our Turn “Policy Checklist,” including an intersectionality clause, a specific immunity clause for minor drug and alcohol abuse, an acknowledgment of rape culture, and more.”
Our Turn Chapter Starting Up at UPEI
A UPEI chapter of Our Turn has been opened by UPEI student Paxton Caseley. The Cadre spoke with Caseley, who said that Our Turn UPEI will be focusing on prevention, support, and advocacy for victims of sexual violence. Caseley commented that UPEI’s D+ grade is “accurate, and a lot needs to be done.”
“There is currently no anonymous disclosure form at UPEI, meaning that students have no way of anonymously reporting sexual violence to the university,” Caseley said. “Also, if a victim doesn’t wish to take legal action during the reporting process, they will not have access to academic accommodations. This means that a victim cannot be excused from their classes by the dean or chair if they have a class with their perpetrator,” elaborated Caseley.
Caseley looks forward to seeing recommendations given by the National Our Turn Action Plan be implemented, along with developing a campus-specific response to sexual violence. She is also excited to see a survivor-centered approach to supporting victims.
For more information about the Our Turn UPEI chapter, check out their Facebook page. A time, date and location for bi-weekly meetings will be announced on Facebook by October 27th. Students, staff, and faculty of all genders are welcome.
By: Allison O’Brien and Nathan Hood
Photo: Allsion O’Brien