By Emily Haws
Photo by Trevor Swann
Stakeholders from the Carleton community held a rally on Nov. 29 in the University Centre Atrium to push for more updates to Carleton’s Sexual Violence Policy (SVP).
This comes ahead of the Board of Governors (BoG) meeting on Dec. 1, where the board will vote to approve or reject the policy. The deadline to pass the policy is Jan. 1, as set by the Ontario government.
The event was held jointly by the Human Rights Society, the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA), the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), the Carleton University Academic Staff Association (CUASA), and Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 4600.
“[We’re] looking to have people know what’s going on, and what’s gone on with this policy process because it hasn’t been okay, and the government is partially responsible for that,” said Lauren Montgomery, chair of the women’s caucus of CUPE 4600, referring to the breakdown in negotiations between Carleton and other stakeholders in the spring of 2016.
“The government and the university administrators have not been accountable for how poorly this has gone,” she said.
The rally was standing room only in the section of the atrium where it was held, with Carleton staff and students showing their support.
It called for the Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Committee to be given the ability to make ongoing recommendations and updates to the policy; for the complainant and respondent to not have to face each other in a formal hearing; for language included in the policy to protect a complainant from reprisal for violations related to alcohol or drug use; for complainants to be able to speak publicly about their experiences with the understanding that providing identifying information may jeopardize their case and/or leave them legally liable; and for the policy to clarify the applicability of the policy to off-campus events.
Jen Sugar, director of Carleton’s Student Affairs office, said she is happy for the continual dialogue and student engagement. She added she was unsure if there was a reason there were no senior Carleton administration members attending the rally, but that the day was hectic due to the recent ransomware attack on the Carleton computer network.
“It seemed from what I heard, it was an extension of [student engagement], talking about their experiences and sharing . . . that dialogue is a very positive thing,” she said. “A lot of people were really engaged with dealing with [the ransomware attack] . . . it’s hard to know what people were doing yesterday but it involved a lot of running around the campus.”
Sugar said some of the changes the rally called for will not be put into the draft before the policy is voted on.
“People want to be able to give feedback on the policy as we start using it . . . Those channels are open,” she said, and added the feedback email previously used in consultations will remain open.
Leaders including GSA president Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, CUSA vice president (student issues) Alexandra Noguera, and undergraduate representative for the BoG Greg Owens spoke at the event, encouraging students to have their voices heard by Carleton administration and the BoG.
The event was hosted by Jodi Miles and Sally Johnson of the Human Rights Society. Several speakers, including Owens, Lauren Montgomery (CUPE 4600), and Sydney Schneider, programming co-ordinator of the Womyn’s Centre disclosed their experiences with sexual assault.
“In my personal experience, I am a survivor of sexual violence,” Owens said during the rally. “I survived my perpetrators’ sexual violence in a dorm room at the University of Toronto, and this current version of this policy would not allow me to seek justice because that person was [an alumnus]. This policy does not cover guests or alumni.”
Madison Worron, a first-year human rights student, helped organize the rally. She said she finds it troublesome that most of the attendees of the rally were in third and fourth year.
“In a few years [the third and fourth years] will be leaving . . . it’s disheartening to know that it’s my year who will be here the longest and who isn’t as involved as they should be,” Worron said.