Recent investigations into sexual assault policies on Canadian campuses from national media outlets have shown neither post-secondary school in Windsor has a special system for dealing with the issue.
Maclean’s and the Toronto Star have included the University of Windsor among the list of Canadian universities without a sexual assault policy. However, its Bring in the Bystander initiative - which teaches students how to intervene to prevent an assault - was mentioned by both as a unique way of addressing prevention of on-campus rape.
The program, based on a workshop developed at the University of New Hampshire, was started by women’s studies professors Charlene Senn and Anne Forrest and is taught over two third-year and fourth-year level courses. Those students provide a workshop to first-year students.
Senn said she is glad the program is being recognized for its efforts to change the culture on campus.
“All of our research shows that for individual students who take the workshop that it actually is very effective,” said Senn. “We’re showing the effects are lasting for at least four months. That’s the longest follow up that we’ve done.”
Senn confirmed the school does not have a special policy, but said it has a working group developing one.
“The university has been on the cutting edge of prevention work in Canada, but like other universities, it is behind in terms of the policy and protocols for how to deal with sexual assaults on campus,” she said.
A special policy would have to include the words ‘sexual assault,’ state the university’s position on sexual violence and provide the actual protocols for students to disclose, report and understand where to get services, Senn said.
The school’s website lists information about sexual harassment and assault under its Student Counselling Centre section. The page defines different types of abuse, advises how to deal with both harassment and assault, explains the after effects of assault and provides links to two community resources.
However, it does not state the university’s position or include a detailed protocol.
University president Alan Wildeman could not be reached for comment Thursday and Friday.
In response to the expanding dialogue on sexual assault on Canadian campuses, the presidents of all 24 public Ontario colleges, including St. Clair College’s John Strasser, voted unanimously this week to develop a province-wide policy to deal specifically with sexual assault.
The meeting took place at Colleges Ontario’s yearly Higher Education Summit in Toronto between November 23 and 24, and the presidents' decision was finalized Tuesday.
John Fairley, St. Clair vice president of college and community relations, said the presidents take this issue very seriously and are aware of news stories relating to campus sexual assault.
“A policy like this must be clear and easy for the public and the students to access, and of course, it has to incorporate the best practices of all the colleges from Ontario and beyond,” said Fairley, who was not a part of the presidents' meeting.
He said a single policy will also be beneficial to students who transfer from another college to St. Clair because they will feel equally as safe on their new campus.
As part of the decision, a task force of vice presidents, student leaders, human resource representatives and members of other college groups will work on creating and implementing the new policy. Fairley said the college has been contacted, but the group has not been formed yet.
The Toronto Star investigation surveyed the 24 Ontario colleges and found none had a special policy in place dealing with sexual assault.
Fairley said the school has counselling services and the security detail has procedures in place for dealing with the issue. As well, management and faculty at St. Clair know what information to give to someone who reports sexual abuse and are trained in the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s policies on sexual harassment.
Senn said a province-wide or nation-wide policy is a good idea as long as “they are developed using best practices and taking the time to make sure we get it right.”