On June 23, U of T released a report entitled “Guiding Principles for Sexual Violence Education and Prevention Initiatives.” The report aims to develop a curriculum of university-wide training initiatives for staff, students, and faculty. The report is further intended to “provide advice and guidance on updating the content and delivery of existing programs.” Its release follows a tumultuous year of student activism against the university’s response to sexual violence.
In March, a postering campaign by campus group Silence is Violence drew attention to what it saw as negligence on behalf of the university in responding to sexual violence on campus. In addition, U of T student Tamsyn Riddle filed a human rights complaint this April against the university and Trinity College for allegedly mishandling her sexual assault investigation.
Riddle claims to have been sexually assaulted at a party sponsored by Trinity College in the spring of 2015. Following the assault, Riddle claims that the university was negligent and mishandled the investigation of her case, allowing her assailant to continue attending the university. The alleged assailant only faced a ban from the dining halls and participation from certain clubs.
Among the principles listed in each section of the report, the panel recommends that the curriculum define the various behaviours that are included under sexual violence and that all initiatives should “address power and privilege, and understand their historical context with respect to identified communities.” The panel also reports that the curriculum should not only be based on theory and research, but also lived experiences and “Indigenous ways of knowing.”
The report comes from an expert panel chaired by Professor Gretchen Kerr, Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education. In order to develop the report, the panel reviewed extensive research and literature on the subject and developed a campus engagement plan to acquire feedback from the larger U of T community. They also had to create a draft of the guidelines, make an anonymous feedback tool available, and revise the report into the document submitted to the Provost.
Kerr was selected by the Provost to chair the panel because of her research and applied experience in the area of abuse and harassment. The rest of the panel was comprised of students, faculty, and administrative staff.
These panelists were chosen from nominations made to the Provost in April 2016. Nominees were selected by Kerr and Provost Cheryl Regehr based on applicants’ “relevant background for the panel’s work, diversity, representation from the various stakeholder groups and representation across the three campuses of U of T,” Kerr told The Varsity.
The stakeholders that are referred to throughout the report encompass various intersectional identities, along with the different faculties across all three campuses.
“We will be looking at a diversity of perspectives, so that includes people from the Indigenous community, persons with disabilities, racialized groups, sexually diverse groups and those whose gender identity or gender expression doesn’t conform to historical norms,” Executive Director of Personal Safety, High Risk, and Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Terry McQuaid explained to The Varsity.
According to McQuaid, the curriculum is currently entering its planning stages. “Part of the planning process right now is to identify all the key groups across the university and to have a lead person in each of those groups — so somebody trained by the centre, knowledgeable of the centre’s activities, who can help roll out collaborative training with the groups. We’ll train a core group of individuals including these lead reps, and then the centre will work with these lead reps to roll out training.”
McQuaid said that the university is looking to develop more content for the curriculum with involvement from people knowledgeable in the field. In addition, they are going to begin training for each of the key stakeholders moving forward.