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Mireille Gervais, director of the Student Rights Centre. Photo: Remi Yuan

Allan Rock says deans will receive full training

Mireille Gervais, director of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) Student Rights’ Centre (SRC), has raised concerns about the amount of training regarding sexual violence on campus that members of the upper administration are receiving.

Last year the Task Force on Respect and Equality made ten recommendations to the university to promote respectful behaviour and prevent sexual violence and harassment on campus. U of O president Allan Rock announced at a press conference on Jan. 30 that the university would adopt all of them.

One of the recommendations made was to have “all members of the senior administration participate in awareness training by Fall 2015,” as well as arrange for the delivery of harassment and sexual violence training to a variety of specified groups.

So far members of the university’s upper-administration haven’t received any training regarding sexual harassment and assault complaints.

Gervais wrote in an email to members of the upper-administration that she participated in the training developed for several groups on campus, which although scheduled for the full two hours, wasn’t enough time to cover all the material.

She said she had been informed that the upper-administration would be receiving a condensed one-hour training session in November.

“In my opinion, this does not illustrate better leadership commitment on the part of the university administration,” wrote Gervais in the email, pointing out that deans are often the ones in charge of investigating complaints of sexual harassment or assault.

“The training stresses the importance of considering power (differentials) when discussing sexual violence. Considering that the upper administration, including the deans, holds the most power within our hierarchical structure, in my view, your training should be twice as long rather than twice as short,” she wrote.

“To me that was like the ultimate sign of lip service where a lot of members of the community and their staff are working really hard on the issue, yet they themselves in their position of leadership aren’t dedicating the same time,” said Gervais in an interview with the Fulcrum.

Rock did respond to Gervais’ email, confirming that members of the U of O’s upper administration will receive the same two hour training offered to others on campus at a Nov. 24 meeting

“Mireille Gervais raised a good point,” said Rock in a Nov. 3 interview with the Fulcrum. “Because of scheduling with the deans and the senior administration, we had taken two hour training and squeezed it down to one hour.”

 

Gervais says the SRC sees many complaints from students which end up being investigated by the deans, but they “lack training, specifically in relation to anything related to human rights, including sexual violence.”

“So knowing that they were going to receive an even shorter training than the rest of the community was really worrying for me,” she said.

However, deans specifically will be receiving additional training once the new sexual violence policy is in place is approved, wrote Rock in his email, as per the Task Force’s recommendations.

As Rock pointed out, deans won’t be in charge of investigating complaints of sexualized violence much longer. The Task Force recommended in its report that the university remove “deans as ‘competent authorities’ in presiding over cases of harassment and sexual violence.”

However before they can do so, said Rock, the university will have to negotiate changes to the collective agreement with the Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa.

The process will also be evaluated by an external reviewer, wrote Rock, seeking to determine the “relevance and suitability of the training.”

“Ongoing” training is vital to the process, according to Gervais. “I think that it’s something that needs to be done consistently and constantly and so I hope that with the plan that Allan Rock listed they’ll continue to take it seriously.”