Trigger Warning: discussions of sexual assault and harassment allegations.
This year students of the psychology faculty will be ill-treated to a familiar face: Dr. Steven Porter. Porter, a Psychology professor here at UBCO, was dismissed from his teaching duties and put on admin leave January 12 2018 after the College of Psychologists of British Columbia (CPBC) placed serious limitations on his work. After four students came forward with allegations of harassment, as well as an uncomfortable learning environment, the University of British Columbia began an internal investigation that ended with Porter being cleared.
The CPBC’s involvement came after it became known that Porter was still teaching. The limitations from the CPBC included regulatory supervision by a registrant of the College for a period of 18 months. “Within the 6 focuses of this supervision was “Boundary issues; power differentials; [and] sexual harassment.”.
Now, after 18 months, Porter has returned. Should he be here?
The recent creation of Policy 131, and the creation of the SVPRO has given an incredible resource for students who have experienced sexual misconduct and need access to resources. But is the university’s commitment to combat sexual misconduct really that strong when Policy 131 and SVPRO’s creation is juxtaposed against the return of Dr. Stephen Porter? It is an ugly duality, wherein contracts supersede commitments.
Porter’s return signifies a not-great attempt on UBCO’s part of making campus a safe space for survivors of sexual assault. Even beyond the incident with Porter specifically, the return of an alleged harasser tells survivors that their space is less important than his. It tells survivors that their space matters less than the contract made with a professor, that their right to a safe campus for an education and a future matters less than a job.
No one is advocating for Porter to be forced to carry these allegations his entire life - it remains that Porter was never charged for the allegations. What does need to be advocated for, however, is the safety and security of all survivors of sexual assault, and the respect for safe spaces for all.