Moving forward as a community
Last November, we watched Mount Allison students and community members come together and take a stand against sexual violence.
This happened both online and in person, with approximately 400 people, mainly students but also community members (masked and distanced), gathering in front of the Wallace McCain Student Centre to listen and share stories of their experiences. We also saw many stories online, not only from current students but from many alumni.
Working with student leaders and community partners, the University quickly created an action plan around addressing sexual violence. Several concrete actions have already been put in place. A lot of additional work has been done over the last five months to move forward; while we know this is a starting point, we also want to encourage a collaborative and open dialogue throughout the process.
- Increased resources have been put in place to support sexual violence prevention and response strategies. Through a new partnership, Crossroads/South East Sexual Assault Centre is now the primary point of contact and resource for students, survivors, or anyone who feels they could benefit from counselling support. Their services are available for all members of the Mount Allison community 24/7 and include a dedicated-to-MtA outreach worker. Students, as well as Mount Allison faculty and staff members, now have access to external resources to help them navigate the process and seek resources for their individual situation.
- External counselling resources have been made available and an external group of investigators have been secured to carry out any formal investigations for the winter term. An internal process for helping survivors navigate the complaint process has been established. There are now three trained staff members throughout the campus community who can assist survivors in this way and help them get the resources they need.
- The Sexual Violence Prevention Working Group at Mount Allison, co-chaired by Dr. Lisa Dawn Hamilton, associate psychology professor and researcher with expertise in this field, and fifth-year student and advocate of sexual violence prevention and response Michelle Roy, was established last fall. The diverse group includes representatives from across campus, including students, faculty, and staff. Ad hoc committees around sexual violence have also been established by the Board of Regents and the Mount Allison Students’ Union. While student involvement and voices have always been encouraged around sexual violence response and prevention, this new structure gives them a stronger seat at the table around policy and procedure development and the design of supports specific to their needs.
- The University has also engaged the Canadian Centre for Legal Innovation in Sexual Assault Response (CCLISAR) to conduct a comprehensive review of Mount Allison’s sexual violence prevention models, resources, policies, and procedures. While this third-party review puts us under the microscope, I am committed to giving them unfettered access and being open to the recommendations the review will bring forward. This report will be shared with the University community and made publicly available when completed.
The events of the fall put a spotlight on this issue, with many alumni and current students bravely sharing stories of survival. I hope you will support us as we move towards change for current and future students.
While the section name for this article is The Last Word, we know this is a conversation that must continue both on our campus and in society as a whole; there will never be a “last word” as we work towards progress together as a community. Many changes are needed and it is clear there is a desire from students to be involved in a significant way in charting the path forward. I am committed to listening to all voices and advocating for change.
Anne Comfort (’86, ’87)
Acting Vice-President, International and Student Affairs