Shilo St. Cyr and Myrna McCallum addressed an ambivalent crowd of students and reporters last Wednesday.
Shilo St. Cyr, Director of UBC’s new Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office, and Myrna McCallum, Director of Investigations, fielded questions from the UBC community Wednesday during a Q&A hosted by UBC’s Equity and Inclusion Office. Of the numerous questions raised by those in attendance, a majority centred on the university’s apparent lack of transparency after taking disciplinary action against former psychology professor Stephen Porter.
Myrna McCallum, when asked to comment on UBC’s actions against Stephen Porter, responded, “I am not going to comment on this particular decision, because all of that happened before Shilo and I came on board. We have no relationship to that, we don’t know any of the details behind it or the decision making processes… I think just by virtue of Shilo and I being here today, and being that our roles are in existence, and this policy being in existence, I think that says a lot about UBC’s commitment going forward.”
Members of the community have increasingly demanded transparency from UBC, believing that the university has a responsibility to inform the public of any disciplinary actions taken against perpetrators of sexual misconduct. The directors of the SVPRO, however, pointed to the fact that under UBC’s Policy 131, “UBC is only authorized to disclose disciplinary actions it has taken against the Respondent [perpetrator] if the disclosure is authorized by the University Counsel for compelling health or safety reasons.” But, according to McCallum, what the counsel considers valid ‘health and safety reasons’ are detrimentally narrow. McCallum explained that “‘Health and safety’ is being defined as physical health and safety, so it does not contemplate psychological health and safety, so obviously we need to work on that.”
“Under UBC’s Policy 131, ‘UBC is only authorized to disclose disciplinary actions it has taken against the Respondent [perpetrator] if the disclosure is authorized by the University Counsel for compelling health or safety reasons.’”
Both St. Cyr and McCallum made it clear on Wednesday that, in their opinion, Policy 131 is not perfect. “I’m not going to say the policy is super awesome,” said McCallum. “There are definitely some gaps in the policy, there’s some issues with it. It doesn’t go far enough in some respects and in other respects it goes way too far. So I’m hoping that within the next year or two there will be an opportunity to gather and make some revisions to it.”
The new directors also expressed some of their own concerns with the policy. McCallum explained that according to the policy, respondents have the right to receive a copy of the official report after it has been submitted by the survivor (officially referred to as the “Complainant” in Policy 131). According to McCallum, in the past, complainants have included far too much information in their reports, including family background and personal information. She fears that by doing so, they may have been unwittingly sharing private information with respondents. For this reason, McCallum has worked to created new, more concise report forms, and she urges individuals to look at them and familiarize themselves with the new document.
McCallum also said that the SVPRO will be thinking about implementing alternatives to traditional disciplinary actions. She stated, “We’re also talking about restorative justice models and how we can implement those.” St. Cyr added, however, that such restorative justice actions would ultimately have to be negotiated between the complainant and the respondent.
UBC and its new SVPRO have also been criticized recently for not promoting and advertising the existence of the new office, which, according to Policy 131, is meant to act as “a single point of contact and liaison on each campus for Members of the UBC Community who have experienced Sexual Misconduct.” On this subject, St. Cyr stated, “We’ve done some informal tabling in different areas on campus and SARA group helps us.” Ultimately, however, St. Cyr acknowledged that she and the SVPRO have not done enough, saying, “We haven’t done a good job of advertising my office, and I think we need to do better, and we need to get information out there that my office exists and what resources there are on campus. So, I think we do need to do better… I apologize.”
For those who still do not know, the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response office is located at Nicola Townhome 120, 1290 International Mews. You can also contact the office at 250-575-8586 or you can email Shilo at firstname.lastname@example.org.