By Saima Asad, June 1 2017 —
After over two years of drafts, revisions and consultations, the University of Calgary’s Sexual Violence Policy came into effect June 1.
The process began in January 2015 with the creation of the Subcommittee for the Prevention of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence. The U of C’s previous sexual harassment policy hadn’t been updated since 1990. The final draft for the new policy was completed in November 2016 and soon opened for public consultation. The consultation, which ended in February 2017, received 314 written responses, 44 per cent of which were from students.
The policy was approved unanimously by General Faculties Council (GFC) on April 13 before going to the Board of Governors (BOG) last Friday. With BOG’s rubber stamp the policy is officially approved and ready for implementation.
U of C provost and vice-president academic Dru Marshall said she was pleased with BOG’s approval of the policy.
“I am very pleased to have the support of the BOG and members of GFC for the sexual violence policy,” she said. “This policy is a result of extensive consultation, feedback and research, and helps to create a safer environment for the entire campus community.”
Students’ Union vice-president student life Hilary Jahelka helped shape the policy — initially as an executive of the Consent Awareness and Sexual Education club and now through her position on the SU. She hopes the policy will encourage survivors of sexual assault to come forward.
“What we’re hoping to see is an increase in reporting,” Jahelka said. “We know that sexual assaults happen [on] campuses across Canada, so it’s not that they’re not happening — it’s just people aren’t coming forward and reporting. Having a policy so comprehensive in place gives people a safe place to come and report.”
The policy also includes a new staff position at the U of C known as the Sexual Violence Support Advocate.
“The role was created to provide one-on-one support and education to our community and is important to the success of the policy,” Marshall said. “They will work closely with our community partners to ensure we are working together with our partners across the city and province.”
Jahelka said this policy is only the beginning of an effort to create a culture of consent on campus.
“This is just the first step in a long process of implementing a bunch of other programs to address rape culture and sexual violence on campus,” she said. “This is just the first step in decreasing and hopefully seeing an end to rape culture on campus.”