News | Senate discusses Draft Policy against Sexual Violence

Definition of consent discussed

On Wednesday October 19, the McGill Senate met to discuss the Draft Policy against Sexual Violence (DPSV).

The DPSV was drafted over the summer by the McGill administration, in discussion with various parties on and off campus, and released to the University community for consultation on September 12. Since then, the administration has been collecting feedback on it, largely through an online form which students and staff have been encouraged to fill in.

At Wednesday’s Senate meeting, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi presented the results of this feedback and reported on the progress that has been made in recent weeks.

“The aim of the policy is to ensure support for survivors who are members of our university community in a manner that is respectful and confidential, and is not conditional on initiating a disciplinary or criminal investigation,” Manfredi explained. “A policy is essential, of course, but we understand that a policy on its own will not do all of the work, and […] we are putting resources in place to support the policy, and other actions [we are taking] in this area.”

“We have put in place […] the process to hire a second person to support our work against sexual violence at the University,” Manfredi explained, “as well as secured office space at a location proximate to campus that provides a greater level of accessibility and confidentiality than we had available in our facilities on campus.”

“A policy is essential, of course, but we understand that a policy on its own will not do all of the work, and […] we are putting resources in place to support the policy, and other actions [we are taking] in this area.”

For the purposes of this discussion, Senators were provided with a summary of the online feedback sent in since September 12 — the document had been prepared by an unbiased third party. The summary highlighted several “key insights” drawn from the 175 online submissions, which included a need for clearer information regarding how to report sexual violence and how the policy will interact with existing disciplinary procedures.

Relatively little discussion took place around the DPSV; those who spoke expressed appreciation for the work that had gone into producing it. Senator John Galaty also commended the policy, though he offered some suggestions for improvement and implementation.

“In the document […] we see a definition of sexual violence stating that somebody cannot consent when they are intoxicated,” said Galaty. “Then, the next page says that we cannot, or should not, query people who are self-reporting with regard to alcohol use, and it seems to me that there’s a contradiction between these two paragraphs.”

“We have put in place […] the process to hire a second person to support our work against sexual violence at the University, as well as secured office space at a location proximate to campus that provides a greater level of accessibility and confidentiality than we had available in our facilities on campus.”

In response to Galaty’s concerns, Associate Provost Angela Campbell, who was largely responsible for drafting the DPSV, said that “we’re not talking in this document about issues of determining whether or not an incident occurred for the purposes of assessing disciplinary action. […] This is a document that sets out the commitment that the University is making to both educate the community with a view to preventing sexual violence […] and also to support individuals who have disclosed a lived experience of sexual violence.”

“The definition of consent in the document doesn’t say that one can’t consent if they have […] used any kind of intoxicating substance, […] it talks about lack of capacity,” continued Campbell. “So if a person has been rendered incapacitated as a result of any situation, […] the lack of capacity is what renders the consent vitiated.”

“So if a person has been rendered incapacitated as a result of any situation, […] the lack of capacity is what renders the consent vitiated.”

Other matters discussed at Senate included the recent relocation of the McGill bookstore, and a report on hiring inequity.


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