SFU releases sexual violence policy draft for feedback

Inclusive language, education, and consent culture at SFU — Dr. Jonathan Driver and Charis Lippett speak to The Peak about the new draft policy


On Wednesday, January 4, SFU released a draft of its sexual violence policy for feedback. All post-secondary institutions across BC will be required to implement a final version of these policies by May 2017.

The Peak spoke with former VP academic and provost, Jonathan Driver, and Advisory Committee member and graduate student, Charis Lippett, about the new draft policy and the process that was necessary to create it.

Driver stressed that many groups throughout the SFU community had been involved in providing insight into the policy, including both a working group and advisory group along with advice from universities across Canada.

Lippett, who advised the working group draft the new policy, explained that “this policy addresses sexual violence on campus that has been a cultural epidemic of late. . . [it] directly addresses not only where the university stands on sexual violence and zero tolerance policy for sexual violence, it also outlines the rights and responsibilities of every SFU community member that is involved” in cases of sexual misconduct on campus.

In the policy the word “sexual misconduct” is used as an umbrella term and is defined under item 3.6 as a term that:

“encompasses a broad range of sexual behaviour, whether physical or psychological, that is committed, threatened or attempted against a person without the person’s consent. It varies in severity and takes many forms, including but not limited to: sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, voyeurism, and the distribution of sexually explicit photographs or videos of a person without their consent and with intent to cause distress. Sexual Misconduct is used in this policy as a synonym for Sexual Violence.”

Lippett stressed how important it was to ensure that both gender-inclusive and sex positive language was implemented into the policy. Indeed, the draft document outlines its intentions in its preamble and defines who is part of the SFU community — more specifically, students, both undergraduate and graduate, employees of the university, sexual misconduct survivors, and respondents.

Breaking down the draft policy:

The Central Resource Office

The draft policy explains that the process through which a survivor may file a report of sexual misconduct will be done through one central office. Dr. Jonathan Driver hopes that this will “minimize the amount of times that a survivor would have to repeat their story” to the university. In order to reduce the stress that may be placed on a survivor, the policy describes a new Central Resource Office that will be the one place that the SFU community can go to file reports of sexual misconduct, where an investigation may take place accordingly.

Driver explained that the university “ha[s] a lot of people who provide assistance and support to students already” including “campus security, health and counselling, the people in residence, and one of the roles of the Central Resource Office will be to make sure that everybody is coordinated and everyone is on the same page” in regards to ensuring that sexual misconduct is adequately addressed.

Driver further stressed the importance of language and names used in creating this central office for the SFU community. While the name of the resource centre is intended to be obvious to the SFU community, both Driver and Lippett explained the triggers that may occur in directly labelling a resource centre as a “sexual violence centre.”

It is something that both of them hope the next month’s input from all members of the SFU community will aide in providing possible suggestions of names for this office along with any other concerns over the policy.

Creating a consent culture through education and training

Lippett described the new draft policy as “a great description for change, but it’s going to take all of us to step in and to create a consent culture at SFU.”

Throughout the policy an intention to provide education and training to inform the SFU community is illustrated in its call “to provide and strongly encourage training for all members of the University Community to reduce and prevent Sexual Misconduct and respond appropriately to the needs identified by survivors.”  In section 5, the role of education is addressed, including an annual education plan for the university community:

“[. . .] that may include a combination of campaigns, on-line and in-person training sessions, workshops, print and on-line [sic] resources, programs and other events on a range of topics related to: a. reducing, preventing and responding to Sexual Misconduct; and b. providing support for survivors and other members of the University Community who have been impacted by Sexual Misconduct.”

Driver explained that the Central Resource Office will work with many groups across campus to “ensure that information about preventing and responding to sexual misconduct is embedded in a whole variety of things.” He used examples of educating the community in various locations including during student orientation, new orientations for employees, or in student residences.

Lippett added that the process of developing this policy always “focused back on having a trauma- informed, survivor-focused, intersectional policy.”

After a report has been filed, what happens?

Survivors have the option to file a report with the Central Resource Office in order to begin an investigation, depending on the nature of sexual misconduct (section 7.5). If a report is filed and the investigation leads to disciplinary action against the perpetrator, Driver explained that “The survivor will not necessarily have all of the details of the complete outcome of an investigation because we are required to also protect the privacy of a perpetrator as well, and so therefore, some aspects of this may be considered private and confidential information”.

At any point, if such restrictions are ignored or violated the survivor will be able to get in contact with their officer in charge of the case. However, the survivor will not be able to directly appeal the outcome of disciplinary action.

What happens when someone outside the SFU community offends on campus?

The draft policy covers the resources available and process that will occur in the event of sexual misconduct between two members of the SFU community. As mentioned previously by The Peak, however, if a member of the SFU community has faced sexual misconduct on campus by someone outside the university, the ability for SFU to intervene falls out of its jurisdiction and the process of filing a report falls beyond the university.

However, Driver added that SFU “ha[s] policies that allow us to ban people from campus; we can get court orders and things like this to ban people off campus.” He explains that if this situation was to occur “we would obviously do our best to work with other organizations to ensure that the person responsible was held to account and we could certainly prevent them from coming on campus.”

Now what?

“It would be foolish to say, a policy has been published so now we can sit back, because everything is done. It’s not. Everyone needs to take responsibility to create a consent culture” said Lippett and thanked all those who have commented, suggested, and informed the advisory committee so far.  

Now, the policy is available to be reviewed and provide input. Both Driver and Lippett underscored the importance of providing feedback on the draft policy, either through the Town Hall meetings on January 17 and January 18 (students only), or online through the sexual violence policy website.

To read the whole policy click here.

Driver explained that while the draft policy is being finalised and will be presented at the Board of Governors meeting in March, it is important that the community knows there are still resources, other policies, and support for those affected by sexual misconduct.

Options at SFU to seek assistance or report sexual misconduct:

Campus Security: 778-782-4500
Personal Security: 778-782-8473 or safe@sfu.ca
Health and Counselling Services: 778-782-4615
Police: 911
SFSS Women’s Centre: 778-782-3670
Out On Campus: 778-782-5933
SFU Employee and Family Assistance Program: 1-800-663-1142
Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW)
24-hour crisis line: 604-255-6344
                  Toll free: 1-877-392-7583