Council Meeting — October 13, 2021

Council discusses motions regarding sexual violence training and supporting Afghani scholars

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SFU Stadium with red seating
PHOTO: Krystal Chan / The Peak

By:  Charlene Aviles, Staff Writer

Content warning: Mentions of sexual violence 

Motion on Sexual Violence Training 

SFSS vice-president internal and organizational development Corbett Gildersleve put forth a motion on sexual misconduct investigations. This motion proposed the SFSS develop “survivor-centric and trauma-informed policies and processes” before establishing their own sexual misconduct investigation office. The motion also called for councillors and SFSS staff to be trained in sexual violence prevention.

According to Gildersleve, Council members “need more knowledge and training” on sexual violence prevention. This stemmed from previous in-camera meetings related to sexual misconduct disclosures. As in-camera meetings are private, The Peak was not in attendance for this portion of the meeting.

Political science representative Abhishek Parmar suggested making sexual violence and prevention training mandatory for all departmental student union (DSU) executives. Society of Arts and Social Sciences representative Akum Sidhu suggested club executives also receive mandatory training.

Sidhu requested delaying the motion to consult with her DSU first. Some councillors preferred not to delay the motion, because they were concerned delayed discussions of sexual violence would be traumatizing, as they would be exposing members to difficult subject matter. 

Computing science representative Ryan Vansickle agreed repeatedly discussing sexual violence can be traumatizing, but expressed his concerns with not delaying the motion. “I don’t want to force anybody into a compromising position, but having to choose between due process and our own uncomfortability [sic], I mean, this is what we’re paid to do. It makes sense to delay this, because if we don’t, we’re basically the only people at SFU that knows this is happening. That’s not democratic.”

Gender, sexuality, and women’s studies representative and vice-chair Devynn Butterworth preferred not to delay the motion.

“I know that for many in this room, having this [conversation] every Council meeting feels so incredibly hard, and it’s something you dread leading up to the Council meeting,” said Butterworth.

Vice-president events and student affairs Jess Dela Cruz objected to delaying the motion. “It’s not just another agenda item to do. It’s not just another discussion topic [ . . . ] We need action now.” Dela Cruz also disagreed that the motion was not time sensitive, “We should have done this a long time ago.” 

The motion to postpone failed with 9 votes in favour, 24 opposed, and 4 abstained. Gildersleve’s motion passed with 31 votes in favour and 6 abstained.

Council discuss support for incoming SFU Afghani scholars 

Communications representative Ashran Bharosha put forth a motion to support SFU’s incoming Afghani scholars. School of Communication professor Dr. Kirsten McAllister attended the meeting to discuss the initiatives to support Afghani scholars

SFU’s Scholar at Risk program provides support for scholars “facing grave threats.” The program offers placements in affiliated universities and financial support for those facing “wrongful imprisonment, prosecution, and expulsion.”

McAllister said the program requires improvement. “I just contacted SFU International about the Scholars At Risk campaign to raise funds [ . . . ]  I know it is to support Afghani scholars, but the initial part or the first section said it was for tuition fees and books and then also, family members. But in my mind, I think the funding will really be needed for housing.” 

McAllister discussed the struggles with administration. 

“There’s been so many roadblocks along the way. I think one of the challenges is that I don’t know how much our bigger SFU administration realizes how strongly we feel about supporting Afghani scholars. The fact that the country is collapsing now is our fault. With the US, we occupied Afghanistan [ . . . ] and when the US pulled out, we all just abandoned them.”

Council amended the motion to donate $2,000 for the incoming scholar and $2,000 for the Scholars at Risk program. The motion passed unanimously.