Responding to sexual violence prevention concerns
The following notice was sent to Mount Allison students, faculty, and staff from the President’s Cabinet on November 12, 2020
Dear students, faculty, and staff,
The safety of our campus community and providing a learning environment that is free from sexualized violence is of utmost importance to us. We want to share our reflections of the past week and propose a number of steps to begin to chart a better path forward to address sexual violence on our campus through education, prevention, support, and resolution at our university.
To survivors of sexual violence, whether current students or graduates, thank you for coming forward to share your stories, as well as your deep concerns about the University’s inability to provide you with the support you have needed, and deserved.
It is clear that we have let you down, and we are sorry.
We make a pledge to you, and to the Mount Allison community, to begin the process of comprehensive change, here and now, with your involvement.
Many changes are needed, and it is clear there is a wish within the community — in particular, from students — to be involved in a significant way in charting the path forward.
This week we began a process of outreach to students, faculty, and a number of external experts working in the field, to inform Cabinet discussions. These are important conversations that must continue, as we proactively engage with our broader community to inform and improve our processes and create a safe environment for students.
As initial steps, we will undertake the following:
· Increase resources to support sexual violence prevention and response strategies
· Implement a number of immediate changes to sexual assault intake and counselling services
· Establish a Sexual Violence Prevention Working Group at Mount Allison
· Initiate a comprehensive, third-party review of Mount Allison’s sexual violence prevention model, resources, policies, and procedures
Actions in these areas, described in more detail below, represent only the starting point, not the finish line; more work needs to be done.
Increase resources focused on sexual violence prevention and response
The University will increase staff resources focused on sexual violence prevention, survivor support, and the after-care system.
As a priority we will add a new, full-time role to lead sexual violence prevention and survivor support services at Mount Allison. We will initiate the steps toward recruiting for this role as soon as possible.
Additional resources will be considered for the future based on input from the Working Group, as well as recommendations from the independent, third-party review.
Immediate changes to sexual assault intake and counselling services
We have updated our website to provide information about external resources available to students. Our goal is to promote all available resources so that students can make the best choice for themselves.
In particular, please note the following changes that are being implemented immediately:
· We have established a partnership with Crossroads for Women in Moncton to improve student access to direct outreach and counselling. Crossroads staff have been on campus today to provide an outlet for students who wish to speak to them.
· Crossroads for Women is now the primary point of contact and resource for students, survivors, and friends. Information about this can be found on the Mount Allison website: https://www.mta.ca/Community/Student_services/Sexual_assault_support/Sexual_assault_support/. We will continue to communicate this in the coming days to ensure that all community members are aware of the service and have the necessary contact information.
·We have begun a discussion with Breelove Counselling Services in Moncton, a trauma-informed counselling practice, that regularly works collaboratively with Crossroads for Women. We will seek Breelove’s advice to further inform or identify actions that can be implemented.
·Additional counselling support will be added for Wellness Centre virtual walk-in counselling starting next week.
Establish a Sexual Violence Prevention Working Group at Mount Allison
The President will immediately establish a Sexual Violence Prevention Working Group with participation by all stakeholders and a particular focus on student representation.
This is an opportunity to bring diverse voices to the table in a wide-ranging discussion of the actions presented here as well as other actions the University needs to consider, with the requirements of students and the Mount Allison community in mind.
We will also encourage the group to discuss ongoing mechanisms to regularly review and assess progress on change, and to ensure a consistent, ongoing dialogue within the Mount Allison community.
Initiate a third-party review of Mount Allison’s sexual violence prevention model, resources, policies, and procedures
The University will engage a qualified, independent authority to undertake an independent review of Mount Allison staff resources and roles, policies, procedures, as well as other aspects of best-practice sexual violence prevention and education in university settings, including an emphasis on varsity athletics and residence life.
A number of potential experts and firms have been identified; we propose these options be assessed with input from the Working Group in order to expedite a process of selecting a partner as soon as possible.
This past week has demonstrated the power of a more transparent campus dialogue and awareness of the lived experience of survivors of sexual assault; therefore, we propose the scope of the review should include a reconciliation process that would allow survivors to share their stories in a supportive environment.
The independent reviewer will have full authority to consult with students, campus community members, and other stakeholders, and will be tasked to provide a detailed public report with specific recommendations for an improved response and support framework and appropriate resources.
Your feedback and opinions matter
It is important that the University fosters a more open and productive dialogue about sexual violence prevention within the Mount Allison community.
Not everyone will agree with all of the actions identified, however it is hoped they will resonate with students and the community as a solid place to start. Some may feel they do not go far enough or that important actions are missing.
Your feedback is important. Please consider sharing your thoughts and reactions to these actions, suggestions for other initiatives, or any other thoughts you have about this important topic. You can submit your comments anonymously using this online feedback form.
With our sincere thanks,
Jean-Paul Boudreau, President and Vice-Chancellor
Jeff Hennessy, Provost and Vice-President Academic and Research
Anne Comfort, Acting Vice-President International and Student Affairs
Gloria Jollymore, Vice-President University Advancement
Robert Inglis, Vice-President Finance and Administration