KPU, KSA Submit Copies of Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policies

KSA policy officially approved by Council, KPU’s policy still in draft form

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A list of sexual assault education and help resources and questions for the focus group at the sexual assault policy consultation on Nov. 1, 2016. (Alyssa Laube)

British Columbia’s sexual violence and misconduct policy, Bill 23, was passed during May of 2016, requiring all provincial post-secondary institutions to create a policy to address and prevent sexual violence and misconduct on-campus. In response, KPU has posted the first draft of its own policy online for members of the university’s community to review and comment on. The document was published at blogs.kpu.ca on Jan. 31 and will be online and open to comments until Mar. 14.

Less than a week earlier, the Kwantlen Student Association approved its own, unrelated sexual violence and misconduct policy at a meeting of Council, and plans to meet with university representatives in the near future to further discuss its published draft.

KPU’s Policy

KPU is not the first institution to meet the requirements of Bill 23. Nearly all major universities across B.C. are well into the consultation process of policymaking. For instance, SFU’s policy has been available to the public online since January, and UBC has already published their second draft.

KPU’s policy was put together by the President’s Advisory Committee on Sexual Violence and Misconduct, which studied other policies around the country, gathered community feedback, and used a provincial document called Preventing and Responding to Sexual Misconduct at British Columbia Post-Secondary Institutions: A Guide for Developing Policies and Actions as a framework for its composition. During that process, KPU staff also met with members of the Kwantlen Student Association to gain constructive criticism and alternative perspectives.

There are six sections of the policy draft: context and purpose, scope and limits, statement of policy principles, definitions, related policies and legislation, and related procedures.

The first section outlines demands made by Bill 23, followed by a statement that the KPU policy “supports our commitment to establishing a safe and respectful learning and working environment for all members of the University community, in accordance with the Act.” The scope and limits section of the document explains that the policy applies to students, employees, contractors, administrators, and board members, and confirms that KPU will teach all university members how to report or respond to cases of sexual violence and misconduct.

The policy principles section is the most influential part the document. There are seven terms within that section, with each outlining KPU’s newly defined responsibilities.

First, the document states that the institution “has a duty to create a safe and supportive learning and working environment for all members of the University community,” meaning that sexual violence and misconduct will not be tolerated on campus, and that those who experience it will be welcome to come forward and report the incident in an inclusive environment. Those who identify as victims or survivors of sexual violence and misconduct will be supported by the university, and the policy recognizes that all parties involved have the right to privacy.

KPU also vows to respond as quickly as possible to reports, “invest in ongoing sexual violence education, awareness and prevention programming (e.g. consent, bystander intervention, and/or societal issues),” and review the policy at least once every three years—or when the Minister of Advanced Education requests it—with consultation from students.

Only one definition is written in the draft itself. According to the document, which refers to Bill 23, “Sexual Violence and Misconduct are broad terms that describe nonconsensual violence, either physical or psychological, carried out through sexual means or by targeting sexuality. Sexual Violence and Misconduct can take different forms including, but not limited to: sexual assault; sexual exploitation; sexual harassment; stalking; indecent exposure; voyeurism; the attempt to commit an act of sexual misconduct; and the threat to commit an act of sexual misconduct.”

The list of related policies, legislation, and procedures can be found on the document, posted to KPU’s policy blog.

The KSA’s Policy

After months of research, KSA VP Student Life and Women’s Representative Natasha Lopes finally saw a student-centric policy regarding sexual assault and misconduct approved by Council on Jan. 27.

Lopes took the initiative of pushing for the policy after she was elected to the KSA Executive Committee last year. She used skills gained from being women’s representative, president of KPU feminist club Women Organizing Opportunities for Women, and vice-president student life to create it, while also consulting with other student unions, policy-makers, and support groups that have worked on similar projects.

“It wasn’t just academic research. It was going out and seeing what the world looks like,” says Lopes. “It was seeing what the community needed from a policy like this, and I think it will hold the student association to continue to do work on this topic.”

The policy is designed to create a safe and inclusive environment on-campus, put support structures in place to prevent and address sexual violence, and educate members of the university community on consent culture, self-defence, and similar topics. It resolves that the KSA must run a yearly consent campaign on campus, vow to be there for any students who seek out help, and stay up-to-date with the policy and preventative measures at KPU.

“I did this so that the next generation of students didn’t have to face what I face, or if they face sexualized violence or sexual assault, that they could rely on the student union for some type of support,” says Lopes, who is an open survivor of sexual violence. “This has been therapy for me. Also, for me, it was a lot of re-traumatization and remembering what had happened in the past. Now I can go free. It’s a very, very, very happy moment.”

An important aspect of the policy is that it is educational. How to define sexual violence and misconduct is sometimes unclear or subjective, and by providing all of the relevant definitions in the policy, Lopes hopes to address that “it comes in so many different forms, and it happens to so many different people.”

“A lot of people don’t realize that sexual violence and misconduct is more than just rape. It’s more than just harassment. It’s manipulation and sexual exploitation, human trafficking. It’s so many things, and I think it’s something students should pay attention to, to see what the KSA is going to do,” says Lopes.

Unlike the draft released by the University, the KSA’s policy only refers to students. Domestic and international students are included in its terms and resolutions, whereas KPU’s covers all members of the community, from students to staff and board members.

“School should be your home. School should be a place where you feel safe, not scared,” says Lopes. “That’s what I think students should take away from this.”

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