On May 18th, 2017, UBC’s Policy 131, titled Sexual Assault and Other Sexual Misconduct, came into effect. The policy was the result of months of work to create a new sexual assault policy for UBC and UBCO, and discussed topics such as disclosure, allegations, support for accusers, and so on. The 2nd point called for a Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office for each campus, an office dedicated to collecting information, advising, and assistance to those who experience sexual misconduct. The SVPRO would also be responsible for reporting statistics back to UBC. The policy, as well as the office, are a big step up from UBC’s previous decisions regarding sexual misconduct and assault (See the Phoenix articles on Stephen Porter). But you certainly wouldn’t know that anything has changed at UBCO without doing your research.
The UBCO SVPRO is currently located in the Nicola Townhouse 120, on International Mews, past the UNC. It popped up in December, with signs in the window and outside calling attention to what was previously an empty townhouse. That is, however, the extent of the advertising for the office. Students that do not live on International Mews and have not been referred to the office are not aware of its presence, nor are leaders of groups like the WRC and the PRC. A quick “did you know about this office?” to students around campus yielded no affirmatives. The Phoenix’s own editor in chief was unaware. This lack of awareness was through no fault of their own, students and group leaders alike. It is the fault of whoever oversees the office, and whoever chose to not make themselves known.
Sexual assault, especially sexual assault from professors and others with authority, is a big deal. Policy 131 began its process with the intent of improving the support students who experience sexual misconduct have at their university. But if students don’t even know where the SVPRO is, the office that is intended to be their biggest support, what’s the point? How are students supposed to see change, to feel supported, if they don’t see any difference on their campus? Where do they go, and how do they know to go there?
There is no denying that the policy, and the office, are important amendments to UBC, but the current situation of no awareness is not enough. As mentioned in a previous article regarding Stephen Porter, students should feel safe and supported on their campus. And in the wake of the Porter issue, that’s even more important to recognize. But currently, there has been a failure to ensure that students feel that safety and support. As a university and a campus, we need to do better.
For everyone and anyone who is curious, interested, or needing to know about the SVPRO, head to International Mews, and look for the signs. Hopefully, we can raise awareness and ensure that everyone knows there is someone to support them.