KSA President to Take a Feminist Approach to New Term

Caitlin McCutchen is planning to rebrand the women’s center, women’s collective, and KSA consent campaign

KSA President, VP External and Women's Rep. Caitlin McCutchen. (Ashley Hyshka)

KSA President, VP External and Women’s Rep. Caitlin McCutchen. (Ashley Hyshka)

As Caitlin McCutchen settles into her first term as Kwantlen Student Association president, she brings with her plenty of ideas for how to improve life at KPU, particularly for female-identifying students.

McCutchen recently travelled to Victoria to meet with local MLAs, including Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark. They discussed KPU’s Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy, which is currently approaching its one-year review. The annual report on the policy will be presented at the next KPU Board of Governors near the end of May.

The meetings were also to determine if the government would be willing to have more in-depth talks later in the year surrounding better supporting universities.

“[The MLAs] were all really supportive and want to help KPU in any way that KPU needs help,” says McCutchen.

A few MLAs suggested that the implementation of the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy was hindered by a lack of support mechanisms within the university. In addition, McCutchen says that a member of staff was supposed to have been hired to help implement the policy at KPU, but no such role has yet been filled.

Some of McCutchen’s suggestions were to provide more government funding for sexual violence and misconduct-related initiatives, as well as guidelines for how to report and handle cases of sexual violence and misconduct on campus.

Because KPU does not have student residences or campus bars, its place in this conversation is unique. This is compounded by the fact that the university is still in its infancy, and therefore lacks the same resources and institutional history that can be found at universities like UBC or SFU.

McCutchen praises the hard work exhibited by the KPU community in implementing the policies, but acknowledges that work still needs to be done by the administration and the KSA.

“No parent wants to send their child to school knowing that there’s not proper safety measures in place,” she says.

In addition to being the president of the KSA, McCutchen is also the student association’s women’s representative. During her term, she wants not only to help KPU better implement its Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy, but also to spearhead on-campus events and campaigns.

Last year, she served as both the KSA women’s representative and the chair of the Alliance of BC Students at the same time. Juggling these roles was difficult, she says, and McCutchen now worries that she wasn’t able to do all that she wanted to as last year’s women’s rep. With her position as ABCS chair expiring this month, she’s looking forward to focusing on internal issues at KPU.

Other than her work on the policy, her main initiatives for the term are rebranding the women’s collective and getting the women’s centre up and running. She also wants to provide training to students for how to respond to witnessing sexual assault or misconduct on campus and how to handle disclosures of such instances. A consent campaign and gender-related outreach and programming are also being considered by McCutchen.

“I don’t really feel that there’s a large feminist voice on this campus—or any voice, really, for gender issues. That’s something we need to work on,” she says. “I think people are passionate about this and are aware of it, and perhaps they don’t know that that community can be created on campus.”

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