Campus sexual violence prevention and response: OUSA stands behind OurTurn

March 21st, 2018

Toronto, ON - The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance has endorsed a letter written by OurTurn: A National, Student-Led Action Plan to End Campus Sexual Violence. This letter is addressed to the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills development to highlight the need for minimum standards for all campus sexual violence policies, and more oversight for institutions so that they can be accountable to Ontario’s campus sexual violence legislation.

OUSA partners with OurTurn to emphasize how important this issue is for the 150,000 students the organization represents. Combating sexual violence on university campuses is a continuous priority, as such, OUSA advocates for a survivor centric, evidence-based approach in both provincial and institutional policies. Following the implementation of Bill 132, we are pleased that the provincial government is currently administering the Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey across university and college campuses to better understand the student voice on this issue.

“Bill 132 is an important step towards addressing sexual violence on university campuses, but there are still major gaps that must be addressed,” said Stephanie Bellotto, OUSA Director and student at Wilfrid Laurier University. “We would like to see minimum standards for supports and reporting set in place, as well as independent oversight to hold post-secondary institutions accountable. Students are asking for safer, more supportive reporting and disclosure processes.”

Some of OUSA’s recommendations to the government on this issue include, establishing a permanent sexual violence prevention unit within the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development. This unit should be tasked with conducting analysis and research, guiding institutions in the development of their sexual violence policies, as well as implementing new strategies such as the bystander intervention training outlined in Smart Serve Certification. This recommendation is the subject of MPP Peggy Sattler's Private Member's Bill, "Safe Night Out Act”. Investing in survivor centric, evidence-based prevention policies and education programs, as well as substantial and intersectional services, are also necessary steps to take in order to challenge the presence of rape culture and toxic norms on campuses. Provincial supports like OHIP and UHIP coverage of medical care following instances of sexual violence, and protection of victims and survivors from OSAP penalties as the result of an investigation, are system wide guarantees that must be put in place.

“As students we are encouraged by the continued commitment of the provincial government to combat sexual violence on university campuses,” said Andrew Clubine, President of OUSA and student at the University of Waterloo. “On top of the important framework that Bill 132 set out, initiatives like the Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey and this month’s release of the Gender Based Violence Strategy illustrate the important steps being taken.”

OUSA would like to highlight the following areas of the OurTurn letter to The Honourable Mitzie Hunter, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development:

The provincial government must provide greater oversight and clear direction on sexual violence policies across post-secondary institutions. This includes setting minimum standards and expectations for universities to implement in their sexual violence policies, including mandatory training for response teams and setting timelines. Policies and structures that can retraumatize survivors who are seeking supports should be eliminated as well. The safety and agency of survivors should be given the greatest weight, particularly when determining accommodations and in disclosure and reporting. Additionally, all complaints and appeals must be conducted in a timely manner, providing the parties involved with a concrete notification of outcome. The provincial government must also make clear who students can go to if they wish to make  complaints against their institutions. There should also be an overseeing body that is responsible for making recommendations for universities in developing their sexual violence policies, as well as ensuring they comply with Bill 132.

Please see here for an overview of OUSA’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Policy Paper.

OUSA represents the interests of 150,000 professional and undergraduate, full-time and part-time university students at eight student associations a cross Ontario. Our vision is for an accessible, affordable, accountable, and high quality post-secondary education in Ontario. To achieve this vision we’ve come together to develop solutions to challenges facing higher education, build broad consensus for our policy options, and lobby government to implement them.

Deborah Lam                                                         
Operations & Communications Director
Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance
[email protected]