2 Institutions’ Policies Review

Speaker: Lisanne Watt, Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training

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Video Transcript

Jennifer Jordan: So thanks again to CJ and Shiloh. And we’re going to move to our next session where we’re actually going to have three presenters who are going to come and present on a review of the current state of policies, best practices in SVM policies, and plain language with SVM policies and processes. So to do the first session, I’d like to introduce Lisanne Watt, senior policy analyst from Advanced Education Skills and Training to present on the current state of policies.

Lisanne Watt: Make it big screen. Okay. Is that one? Okay.

Robynne Devine: [inaudible 00:01:08].

Lisanne Watt: This one? Okay. Thank you, Jennifer. Can everybody hear me back there? No. Okay. Maybe I’ll just try. Okay. I’ll try.

Robynne Devine: On your right.

Lisanne Watt: Two hands and turn pages somehow. We’ll see how this works. First of all, I want to thank everyone for being here today. It’s amazing to see so many people willing to take the time out of their schedules to come and learn more about this important topic, share experiences, and help contribute to some of the work that’s being done. I’m really happy to be here today to start the session on policies to just give a quick overview on where some of the policies relating to sexual violence and misconduct on campuses are.

Lisanne Watt: We completed a very, very high level review of the policies that are currently in place. Just to better understand what is in place in those policies that institutions, what they’ve included, and to identify any kind of common elements or variations within those policies. This review, as I said, was high level, but it also took into consideration that it was just based simply on what was in the policies, noting that many policies also have linkages to other accommodation policies or procedure documents and can sometimes have some other elements to them other than just the policy. We also needed to recognize that in establishing policies and doing this work, institutions were all coming to this work from different capacities, resources, and abilities to establish policies and begin the implementation that was required approximately two years ago.

Lisanne Watt: And lastly, if that wasn’t all enough, we also looked at it with the understanding that each institution’s policy is created in consideration of the unique needs of that student, the students and the campus communities at those institutions. And some of those factors can be numerous and varied, whether it’s having multiple campuses or whether you’re dealing with different student populations, whether… flip my page. Student residences, some campuses have residences, some institutions do not. There’s unique program structures at different institutions. So all of these things add additional levels of complexities to policies that are already very complex and often sensitive. So there’s a lot in there.

Lisanne Watt: So with all that being said, what did we actually look at? How do you take all of that information in 25 policies and come up with something to compare amongst them all? As we started looking at the different policies, these were the four themes that kind of emerged as some broad areas to consider. So it was the general approaches that institutions take with their policies, confidentiality, which is something that we’ve heard today brought up, so how that is incorporated into the policies, supports that are referenced within those, and also any additional measures beyond kind of the basic pieces that may be included in policies to address systemic issues.

Lisanne Watt: So for the first item, approaches, we looked at three areas which was scope, jurisdiction and principles. So in other words, we were looking at who was included in the policy, who did the policy apply to, where it was applicable, and whether there were any overarching principles embodied within the policies.

Lisanne Watt: And here, I’m not sure if everyone can see that. There’s lots on this slide. So we’ll go through this one. With regards to scope, we found that the majority of the policies generally included the campus community. And with that being said, oftentimes within those, the supports and reporting processes were generally separated between student employees. There was a split there. A small number of institutions, their policies expanded beyond that to also include contractors, volunteers, visitors to really kind of anybody that may be on the campus community. And then there were a few policies that only related to incidents where students were involved. So that was kind of the three general areas of scope for the policies.

Lisanne Watt: We also went a bit further in trying to understand a little bit about the reporting, the scope for reporting. And for almost all policies, regardless of who was included in the scope, all the policies, we’re trying to provide that information about where complainants can make report, where to go.

Lisanne Watt: But that being said, the processes of where to go and who to disclose to really varied. And I think we did hear some of that in the student fishbowl and the prospective. So some institutions that’s some very clear information in their policies. Some institutions maybe it was vague and there could’ve been a bit more. But for most part, people had something in there and it just was whether how clear or not it was.

Lisanne Watt: The other thing that varied was in regards to who reports are made to. Some institutions have very specific offices or individuals that was this is the one place you go, and other institutions in their policies would have extensive lists of peoples or offices on campus where reports could be made.

Lisanne Watt: Also one other note on the reporting in the policies, it was noted that half the policies specifically noted that a survivor could change their mind at any time and withdraw a report. So that was only clear in about half of the policies. And whether or not that is in practice in the case with the others may or may not be.

Lisanne Watt: So the next one jurisdiction, it was fairly consistent. In most cases, jurisdiction included institutions property, any institution sanctioned events that were taking place, and generally many of them also included or spoke to the realm of digital or electronic or social media. So the policies would also encompass that.

Lisanne Watt: And then the last one, principles, there was a lot of different things that was found. There was a bit more variation, but what was similar that most, if not all policies, included some language or indication in regards to sexual violence and misconduct was either prohibited or not tolerated, that most had a principle providing a safe learning work environment, a commitment to prevention, awareness and education and various approaches to procedural fairness and their natural justice, and also to survivors being treated with respect, dignity and compassion. So those were the ones that we saw the most amongst the policies.

Lisanne Watt: Beyond that, there were additional principles noted with approximately 40 to 65% of institutions that also included some of the following aspects. So recognition that the severe and traumatic impact of sexual violence and misconduct and that can take place, excuse me, that survivors are decision makers in matters relating to themselves and their reports and their disclosures.

Lisanne Watt: And another one was the commitments to a trauma-informed survivor centered approach to the work they do. And the last two I think on the few were ones that we saw on one or two policies like a few of them. And so it was the implementation of harm reduction approaches in the work they do and also commitments to treating not just survivors but also the respondents with respect, dignity, and compassion.

Lisanne Watt: The next item that we touched on was confidentiality. This one was fairly, for the most part, straightforward. Most institutions reference the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and also noted reasonable efforts to maintain confidentiality with the exceptions of risk of imminent harm if it’s compelled by law and/or sharing personal information was necessary for carrying out duties.

Lisanne Watt: So a lot of other policies also made mention of the inherent connections between maintaining confidentiality and informed consent as a way of being able to help survivors feel safe enough to report in the first place. So a lot of the policies mentioning that work to be done to encourage reporting. It was also in this area noted that there were varying degrees of clarity across the policies regarding record retention and reporting of information, so it’s ensuring how students knew before they made a report how their information was going to be used and any records or reporting and where that would go.

Lisanne Watt: And the next area we had were supports. Generally all policies did mention availability of support resources, which could vary, but generally they included mentioning of access to timely and accessible resources which encompass both on-campus and off-campus supports depending on the institution and availability of what was there. All policies indicated supports and accommodations for survivors and that survivors can receive support without having to make a formal complaint. Beyond that, many institutions, so approximately 60%, they also offered some form of supports for those who were respondents of or were accused in relation to incidences of sexual violence and misconduct. And roughly 40% of policies did provide information on options for voluntary alternative dispute resolution processes. And after that there was a few more that 30% offer third-party reporting in accordance with the Ending Violence Association of BC’s provincial protocol and with the vote 25% more of the policies allowing for a anonymous misreporting, which are very distinct processes.

Lisanne Watt: So the last item we looked at went kind of beyond the basics of what was included in policies and looked at some of the systemic issues and approaches that policies may include on these items. So it was kind of thought it’d be of interest to highlight some of this work. So we did note that approximately 40 to 50% of policies include work to recognize broader systemic violence and understanding diverse experience, needs, and impacts based on gender, race, identity. Also to build cultures of consent on campus and remove institutional barriers in accessing support or making disclosures or reports. In addition, there were a couple other institutions that also make commitments to addressing violence against indigenous women and girls and to ensure responses and supports attend to cultural sensitivity.

Lisanne Watt: Oh, and I’ve been… Oh, we can’t go back. Okay. So just to conclude, it was a very high level scan of the policies currently in place and it was just to give a sense of what we’re currently seeing on the variety of policies, meeting the needs of a variety of institutions and student communities and that. So what really stood out is that there is a lot of really good initial work in the foundation of building those policies and something also that stood out for me in the fishbowl with the students of how important policies really are. They really are the foundation. They are the part that sets the path going forward and how those will be implemented and the impact those have on the work that’s being done.

Lisanne Watt: So where are we now? I think it’s a great place to start. We’re at a great place. We have the policies. We’re here together and we know the policies are not static. The policies are required to be reviewed. We’ll continue to evolve and work to meet the needs of of the campus communities.

Lisanne Watt: For many institutions, some of the work has started on the review of their policies. For many, this will be coming up. So it’s hoped that the forum provides an opportunity to speak with colleagues, other students, to hear about the policies, what’s working, what’s really good successes, areas that may be are challenges. It’s hoped that over the couple of days we’re going to have some practical pieces we can take back and maybe some broader approaches and ideas that we can start to think about how to include and incorporate into those policies.

Lisanne Watt: As we’ve talked about the forum, here’s an opportunity to share, receive information, and it’s also the beginning of work going forward. Policies are a really important area and we are interested in having ongoing discussions as the work at the institutions do continues. So just want to say thank you again for everyone being here today, and yeah, and I’ll turn it back to Jennifer.

Jennifer Jordan: Thank you very much, Lisanne.