Students respond to Sexual Violence Policy

A second open letter has been released to push for reforms to the university’s recently implemented sexual violence policy (SVP).

Sally Johnson, one of the leaders of the Not Our Policy campaign, said the open letter was written to address existing issues with the policy that the Board of Governors (BoG) approved on Dec. 1.

“There were some changes that were made and we were really happy about that,” Johnson said. “But I think definitely—through talking to other groups—[the administration] missed a lot of things and they missed some things even from our [initial] recommendations.”

A letter was previously written by the Carleton Human Rights Society in November, during the feedback period before the SVP was voted on by the Board of Governors. After this, Carleton’s administration released a response to the letter to address the issues it brought up.

Caitlin Salvino, one of the lead writers of the letter, said this response from the administration was flawed.

“What we’re saying is that this is a response to the response essentially,” she said. “The administration said that they were still open to consultation so that’s what we’re hoping to do.”

Salvino said they still have issues, specifically with the policy not being survivor-centric enough and not containing an immunity clause to protect victims.

Jen Sugar, director of student affairs, said it would be impossible to include a total immunity clause in the SVP.

“The Sexual Violence Policy’s mandate is to focus on sexual violence and the complaint at hand, independently of other policies,” she said via email. “This said, as we cannot predict the breadth or severity of all possible violations, we cannot write the concept of “blanket immunity” into this policy.”

The letter also calls for visitors to Carleton and alumni to be included in the SVP. But Sugar said this is not possible.

“The university has no ability to sanction a visitor or to compel them to participate in an internal process,” she said. “If there was complaint against a visitor, we would involve the Ottawa Police and potentially use the Campus Ban Policy.”

Salvino said the Not Our Policy campaign has not heard from back from administration about the current open letter, but would be formally submitting it to administration in March.

Other groups at Carleton such as the Carleton University Students’ Association, the Graduate Students’ Association, and the Rideau River Residence Association have also signed the open letter.

Johnson said she would like to see changes made to the policy by the end of the semester, but that it would not be feasible.

“At [the administration] level it seems like it’s a very bureaucratic thing and I feel like those kinds of things take time,” she said.

The university will be sticking with the three-year review timeline mandated by the province, according to Sugar. She said Carleton has to see the plan in-action for some time before deciding whether or not changes are necessary.

“We will stay with the three-year timeline recommended by the Ontario government,” she said. “This said, there is no provision that prevents us from reviewing the policy sooner.”

– Photo by Trevor Swann