Story by Emily Haws, photo by Anna-Sophia Vollmerhausen
Students have reacted strongly to Carleton’s Sexual Violence Policy (SVP), which was approved by the Board of Governors (BoG) on Dec. 1.
Michael Bueckert, a graduate student representative on the BoG who voted against the policy, said it did not have student support.
“I was very disappointed that the Board was not interested in listening to stakeholders and community groups who had been working on this issue and had expertise in this issue,” Bueckert said. “There are a number of ways in which these voices had been [unnecessarily] excluded from the meeting.”
Carleton increased security outside Richcraft Hall, where the BoG meeting was held, due to a student-led protest outside the meeting.
Samiha Rayeda, one of the protestors, said although it is good that the university administration took students’ feedback into account and made changes to the policy, it is a problem that they will only go so far.
“It shows that they can, but they are not willing to listen to all campus stakeholders. They haven’t listened to all of the unions, they only took into account some of the unions’ opinions. That shows us that they’re trying to divide us and trying to make sure that some people are okay with the policy and some people are not,” Rayeda said. “We are showing them that we are all united to say we’re against this policy.”
Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) president and BoG undergraduate student representative Fahd Alhattab voted against the policy, along with Owens and Bueckert.
Joanne Ostrajanskiy, the other graduate representative on the BoG, voted in favour of the policy. The Charlatan reached out to Ostrajanskiy for comment, but requests have not been returned.
Bueckert said in a statement on the GSA website that the board did not entertain the possiblity of amendments to the policy.
“It was repeatedly stated that this is the best possible policy and we simply need to adopt it,” Bueckert said.
Owens said he voted against the draft because he felt it was not within the best interest of the Carleton community. He said he is concerned about putting a policy forward that may not be effective.
“I am concerned about senior administration’s response to people having issues with certain clauses of the policy, using the idea that we need to see if the policy works first,” he said. “Now, that type of mindset may work with a tuition model or with something that isn’t quite so emotional or . . . damaging to folks who survive sexual violence.”
Owens said if the policy is not effective, then those who experience sexual violence may not receive justice.
“That looks like us not adequately addressing sexual violence and rape culture on campus,” he said.
The process of creating the policy was controversial, with Carleton’s senior administration and other campus stakeholders often at odds.
In November, three students wrote an open letter on the policy with recommendations, which was signed by a large number of individuals and student groups. On Nov. 29, CUSA, the GSA, the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 4600, the Carleton University Academic Staff Association, and the Carleton Human Rights Society held a rally calling for more changes to the draft.
Alhattab said he voted against the policy due to it not having a rolling review committee. As it stands, the policy will be reviewed every three years.
But Suzanne Blanchard, vice-president (students and enrolment), said during the BoG meeting that Carleton has committed to review sections of it sooner, if there turns out to be a major issue with how the policy works.
“Based on the fact that it wasn’t amendable, based on the fact that they weren’t willing to agree to revisit it in the first year, and then all the other recommendations that were not included . . . we felt that it was right for us to make our stance very clear and vote against the sexual violence policy,” Alhattab said.
Sally Johnson, the vice-president (internal) of the Carleton Human Rights Society, and one of three authors of the open letter, said student stakeholders are taking December to regroup, but they will be organizing again in January.
“At this point I think we will have to go above the administration, so that might be contacting [Members of Provincial Parliament] and other politicians and media, and try to pressure them that way,” she said.