On Wednesday April 20, students and community members gathered outside the Leacock Building – where a McGill Senate meeting was in progress – to voice their support for the recently student-drafted Sexual Assault Policy (SAP). The McGill administration withdrew its support for the SAP earlier this month, partly due to its emphasis on intersectionality. According to the SAP, intersectionality “is an approach which recognizes that individuals may experience oppression differently due to their membership in different social and cultural groups.”
Lucie Lastinger, a member of the SAP working group, said that the policy was expected to be brought to Senate for approval on the day that the administration retracted their support.
“We demand that McGill acknowledges that rape culture lives on this campus, and we demand that they do something about it.”
“We’re here today to tell the administration that enough is enough,” Lastinger said, addressing the crowd. “We’re here telling the administration that we’ve gone on for too long without adequate resources and support on this campus.”
“We demand that McGill acknowledges that rape culture lives on this campus, and we demand that they do something about it,” added Lastinger. “We demand a policy that is pro-survivor, proactive, accessible and intersectional. We’ll be here for every Senate meeting from today until our policy gets passed.”
“For far too many people who will experience sexual assault during their time in university, campus will be a site of violence and injustice, rather than healing and support.”
At the rally, the Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE) President, Molly Swain, denounced McGill administration’s refusal to support the SAP.
“Going to school or work should not be dangerous or traumatizing activities. However, for far too many people who will experience sexual assault during their time in university, campus will be a site of violence and injustice, rather than healing and support,” Swain told The Daily in an email, on behalf of AMUSE.
Students inside the building handed out flyers and buttons to Senators. Cecilia MacArthur, another member of the working group, said this was “an attempt to raise awareness about the policy, the process, and the administration’s recent refusal to move it forward.”
“This was largely motivated by the fact that we’ve been working exclusively with the administration, so other members of Senate – professors, staff, and even other administrators […] – have been largely excluded from the process,” MacArthur explained to The Daily.
“[This was] an attempt to raise awareness about the policy, the process, and the administration’s recent refusal to move it forward.”
Talia Gruber, also a member of the working group, told The Daily that students attended the Senate meeting after the rally.
“At the Senate meeting, there was a commitment to bring a policy on sexual violence forward by the end of 2016, ‘based on our document’,” Gruber said. “There was a question about resources, and the Provost said they would use the resources currently in place.”
“So in my opinion, they only addressed one of our three demands, but people felt hopeful,” Gruber continued.
“Establishing a presence at Senate was an attempt at making our policy, and the need for a sexual assault policy more generally, known,” MacArthur told The Daily.
The demands of the working group include hiring additional staff dedicated to sexual assault prevention and response, a transparent and collaborative review process for determining the best sets of policies for supporting survivors, and forming an ad-hoc Senate committee with student-staff parity to pass “a pro-survivor, proactive, accessible, and intersectional sexual assault policy” before the end of 2016.
“Establishing a presence at Senate was an attempt at making our policy, and the need for a sexual assault policy more generally, known.”
According to some observers, Dean of Students Andre Costopoulos was seen using a side door to enter the Leacock Building to avoid the demonstration. There was also increased security in place at the Senate sign-up location.
The working group released an open letter to the McGill administration earlier this month to denounce their withdrawal of support and reiterate their demands to the administration. The letter was signed by over 1,500 people.