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Fed body reps say they were prepared to host them despite earlier criticism

Photo: Mackenzie Powell

The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) revealed at last week’s general assembly that the rape culture workshops that federated bodies were required to undergo earlier in the year didn’t end up happening because of logistical issues.

The workshops were criticized in October because of their many requirements and threat of financial penalty if fed bodies did not meet those requirements.

The rules stipulated that all elected representatives attend the workshops, which were to be held within two months of a student election period, open to the rest of the faculty, and promoted for at least three weeks leading up to the event.

Now at the end of the term, fed body officials are saying they were in fact prepared to hold the workshops, but the SFUO wasn’t.

“I don’t see why there were any logistical issues,” said Christine Backs, vice-president social of the Engineering Students’ Society (ESS). “I know for a fact that the ESS told the SFUO an exact time, date, and location in which we would participate in the workshop. They had to do no planning on their side except (to) send someone to lead the workshop.”

“Despite my interest in hosting them, they never happened,” said Colin Guldimann, vice-president social of the Economics Students Association.

Guldimann said they tried to prepare presentation materials to use in the workshops, but were told all resources had to come from the Women’s Resource Centre.

“We definitely tried to hold them, but we were shut down by the fed multiple times.”

The decision not to host the workshops because of “a number of logistical challenges that we could not have foreseen” was relayed through the presidents’ round table, said Maya McDonald, vice-president of equity of the SFUO.

McDonald wrote in an email to the Fulcrum that the special committee charged with running the workshops had “a lengthy discussion about how to structure the workshops in order to make them uniform enough to be easy to replicate, while also acknowledging the differences that each student association might seek.”

Their discussions also highlighted timeline challenges, and confusion around who was running the workshops that hindered the progress of the workshops. McDonald said the committee will use information gathered this year “in order to better prepare next year’s federated body executives to host these workshops.”

McDonald said the SFUO’s task force on sexualized violence createed an ad hoc committee in the summer that “would take  the lead on the rape culture workshops” in August.

The workshops were part of the mandate of the student federation’s task force created last spring in response to the alleged sexual assault of a woman in Thunder Bay by members of the men’s hockey team, and the exposure of a sexually graphic conversation between student officials that discussed SFUO president Anne-Marie Roy.

According to McDonald, “one of the successes of the task force was the inclusion of the 101 Week sexual assault protocol in guide training presentations over the summer of 2014.

“The federated bodies were all really engaged in the discussions surrounding the workshops,” said McDonald, “and it would be a disservice to them and to our membership to have rushed through them simply to say that they had been hosted.”

Backs questioned whether the workshops are even necessary for the federated bodies, whose representatives go through rape culture training at other times throughout the year.

“We’ve already attended this type of workshop many times,” she said.