MSU condemns sexual violence, commits to systematic review of the Maroons department and the MSU as a whole.

March 29, 2019 at 10:00 am

CW: Sexual Violence

 

While continuing to work with the University’s Sexual Violence Response Coordinator, as well as experts within the Office of Equity and Inclusion, you have my pledge that the MSU will source and hire 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.

If a disclosure of sexual harassment or assault is made within the McMaster Students Union, action would be applied based on relevant policies and within the auspices of the University’s Sexual Violence Response Protocol. Upon taking office in May of 2018, the MSU Board of Directors re-committed to the already extensive training process for the Maroons rep team, including mandatory Sexual Violence Response and Prevention training, as well as Bystander Intervention training for all Maroons team members. A review of that service was initiated in the first semester of 2018.

Through the review, Maroons volunteers made it known that additional reporting tools would be useful and that the MSU’s Workplace Policy on Harassment, Discrimination and Sexual Violence should be more complainant driven in its scope. Working with the University’s Sexual Violence Response Coordinator, the Vice President (Administration) developed an online reporting tool for Maroons, in case a volunteer wished to report an assault, but didn’t feel comfortable disclosing to a peer or a University official, or in a face-to-face setting. In addition, the Vice President (Administration) began the process of updating the workplace policy, consulting with volunteers, staff, and experts to do so.

Recently, this year-long effort was highlighted in a Silhouette article. The article also suggested that anonymous sources had knowledge of undisclosed incidents of sexual violence within the Maroons. These comments are highly concerning. Since that time, the Board of Directors made it a daily priority to listen to Maroons team members, supported the Maroon’s leadership as we discussed sexual violence with the team, reviewed our processes and consulted with the Office of Equity and Inclusion.

I haven’t found actual reports, anonymous or otherwise, of sexual violence within the Maroons team this year. That said, the lack of disclosures to date does not mean that harassment or assault have not occurred. It is essential that volunteers and staff feel supported in making disclosures. Let me be absolutely clear, the MSU encourages disclosures, believes survivors, and welcomes any and all information related to sexual harassment or assault. Though I believe our practises and disclosure protocols to be exemplary of the sector, questions of this nature cannot go unanswered. I fully commit the organization to an external investigation of the policies and practises of the Maroons department, along with the entire operations of the student union. I intend for this process to engage Maroons volunteers, both past and present, along with anyone who may wish to participate. I have already begun the work of sourcing a qualified consultant to lead this process. In addition, the Board of Directors has instructed the Maroons leadership team to pause all current service activities and events, until such time that the consultant can begin the review work. It is essential that we answer any and all questions of system failure or sexual violence immediately.

Moreover, the online tool deployed earlier this year to the Maroons, will be fully adopted across all MSU services. This will be in addition to the existing mechanisms within the University’s Sexual Violence Response Protocol. The MSU’s Workplace Policy on Harassment, Discrimination and Sexual Violence is already in the process of review and enhancement.

Our volunteers and staff, along with every student on campus, should be able to operate in spaces devoid of sexual harassment or assault.  The bottom line is simple – we must work to end sexual violence on campus. This is a timely conversation, given the concerning results presented by the provincial government’s Summary Report of the Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey. The report indicates post-secondary students from across the province have serious concerns about institutional supports, services and reporting procedures regarding sexual violence.  The MSU Board of Directors is committed to eliminating any barriers to reporting and/or supporting disclosures inside the MSU.

Disclosures of sexual violence can be made to any MSU peer support: the Women & Gender Equity Network (WGEN), the Pride Community Centre (PCC), Maccess, and the Student Health Education Centre (SHEC). In addition, disclosures can be made to one’s supervisor, to the General Manager of the MSU, to any member of the Board of Directors, or directly to Meaghan Ross, Sexual Violence Response Coordinator via https://svrp.mcmaster.ca.  I continue to welcome student feedback and I will speak more to a specific timeline and opportunities to engage with our forthcoming system review, as that information becomes available.

Ikram Farah
MSU President
president@msu.mcmaster.ca
905-525-9140 ext 23885

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