Women’s Collective Consults with KPU on Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy

Recommendations made before public posting draws to a close
Alyssa Laube, Associate Editor

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KPU’s recently published Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy draft has been viewable by the KPU community on the university’s policy blog since Jan. 31. On the blog, viewers are encouraged to provide their feedback to policies that are in development via comment threads. Praise for the policy, as well as criticism and concern, has been circulating both on and off the web.

During the first week of March, KPU feminist collective Women Organizing Opportunities for Women took part in a consultation with the university regarding the draft. They suggested some changes, such as making it more “victim-centred” and focusing more on training for bystanders and staff, to the policymakers. They also reccommended including the definition of “rape culture” to the document’s definition list.

“As somebody who’s a really big proponent of sexual violence and misconduct and handling rape culture as a whole, [the absence of a definition for rape culture] is not cool,” says Natasha Lopes, Chairperson of WOOW and VP Student Life for the Kwantlen Student Association. “But the university is taking the appropriate steps and they took our feedback for sure.”

Kari Michaels, a member of WOOW, agrees that the added definition is crucial to the quality of the policy.

“In terms of including rape culture in the definitions, it would show recognition of the context in which this policy exists as well as the experiences that students have and the challenges in bringing instances forward to the university,” says Michaels. “That would be an important step, for the university to recognize that this is the culture in which we live and part of adopting this policy is to change that culture into consent culture.”

Michaels would like to see a “culture that respects the bodily autonomy of our peers and respects that people are going to have a really difficult time expressing the traumas they’ve experienced” on campus.

Caitlin McCutchen, incoming Women’s Representative with the Kwantlen Student Association and member of WOOW, is focused primarily on developing a “more victim-centred approach” in the policy. Part of accomplishing that could mean providing bystander and staff training for responding to instances of sexual violence and misconduct on campus.

“There was the issue of educating staff that wasn’t really in the procedures,” says McCutchen. “That was a concern of ours that was brought up but wasn’t really addressed. The goal is that any person on campus would be able to come forward.”

Other additions offered by WOOW include incorporating the newly installed CCTV cameras at KPU into security measures regarding sexual violence. In particular, the group would like to know how camera footage capturing evidence of sexual violence would be used, and who would have access to it. WOOW representatives also brought up the possibility of tracking instances of sexual violence specifically, which the university is not currently doing. Both of these items may be added to the “Related Policies” section of the draft, according to Michaels and McCutchen.

KPU representatives involved with the consultations could not be reached for comment. An email response to interview requests from KPU Media and Communications Manager Corry Anderson-Fennell sent on Mar. 1 reads:

“The six-week public posting period on the Sexual Violence and Misconduct policy closes March 14, after which we will review all comments. It would be pre-emptive to share ‘what will be done and when’ before allowing the public posting period to conclude, and also before we have had a chance to thoroughly consider the results.”

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