UPDATE: Systematic review of Maroons and MSU policies and procedures relating to sexual violence and response

November 25, 2019 at 12:00 pm

To all members of the McMaster community,

     In March of 2019, the MSU committed itself to hiring an independent consultant to review all polices, practices, and structures related to the Maroons, as well as the organization as a whole, in regards to sexual violence response and prevention. That process was led by Karen Bridgman-Acker (BA), (BSW), (MSW) – an expert in workplace harassment and human rights investigations and workplace violence risk assessments. Karen was in control of all aspects of the investigation and was given as much time as necessary to complete the review. 

     The review invited any and all members of the McMaster community to participate and special outreach was directed to current and former Maroons members. Logistically, Karen conducted numerous phone interviews, in-person interviews, and collected anonymous survey data. The review is now complete and was received by the Board of Directors in October of 2019.  Over the last several weeks, the Board has laid the groundwork to implement each and every recommendation made within the review and prepared an implementation plan to share with the campus community. 

     What we learned is that we need to do better.  The report highlights that there were people who volunteered or participated in the Maroons, who felt uncomfortable reporting incidents of harassment. The Board of Directors takes responsibility for overcoming the structural shortcomings as outlined in the recommendations. Further, on behalf of the organization, I would like to apologise to the students, volunteers, and staff members who were letdown or left unsupported by the workplace policies of the MSU.

Beginning immediately, the Board of Directors commits to instituting all recommendations made within the report, including:

  • Continuing the probation already in place within the Maroons on an ongoing basis, and extending specific event planning / approval systems to all services.
     
  • Conducting the necessary consultations and research to update the current Workplace Anti-Violence, Harassment, and Sexual Assault Prevention Policy.
     
  • Creating a neutral, third-party intake process for disclosures, reports, and concerns relating to harassment, sexual harassment, and workplace violence, in conjunction with the Senior Human Rights Officers and Sexual Violence Prevention and Response resources located in the Equity and Inclusion Office.
     
  • Committing to new systems of ensuring all full- and part-time staff, as well as volunteers receive mandatory training at their time of hire and throughout regular intervals during their employment relating to MSU workplace policies, and health and safety policies, while ensuring inclusive practises, accessibility, and sexual violence response and prevention are prioritized.

     I would like to thank everyone who took the time and energy to share information with Karen. I applaud your bravery. In doing so you have helped guide the findings and recommendations that will be instituted by this organization.

     Hagar Akua Prah, Consultant on Sexual Violence Prevention and Response within the Office of Equity and Inclusion, along with Sarah Figueiredo, Vice President (Administration) of the MSU, will host a information session on Wednesday, November 27 from 9:30am to 11:30am for any member of the community who would like to ask questions about the report. Please email Sarah at vpadmin@msu.mcmaster.ca to coordinate.  In addition, those on campus looking for one-on-one support can reach out directly to Hagar at prahh@mcmaster.ca or extension #20909.

The report can be found here. Please read it alongside the MSU’s commitments to action document, which outlines how each recommendation made by the report will be implemented and the work that has been done thus far.

     On a final note, I would like to again reiterate the MSU’s condemnation of sexual violence, as well as our commitment to fully implement the recommendations provided by the external review. I would like to reaffirm the Board of Director’s commitment to eliminating any barriers to reporting and/or supporting disclosures of harassment or sexual violence inside any aspect of the MSU. I welcome any and all feedback, questions, and discussion regarding the recommendations and action plans contained in this document.

Sincerely,

Josh Marando
MSU President
president@msu.mcmaster.ca
905-525-9140 ext. 23885

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