Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Government website gives students a chance to critique college policy

January 8, 2018 by Adam Marsh, student editor 

The Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training recently launched a new website for students to give feedback about their post-secondary institution’s sexual violence and misconduct policy, as well as to give feedback about provincial ministry guidelines around the policies.

In a press release dated December 4, 2017, provincial minister of advanced education, skills, and training Melanie Mark said that the guidelines in the provincial legislation that required all post-secondary institutions to have a sexual violence and misconduct policy in place by May of 2017 “were important first steps” and that consulting students a minimum of once every three years for a review of the policy will help ensure everyone feels safe on post-secondary campuses. (Mark was not available to comment for this story.)

Camosun College Student Society (CCSS) external executive Mitchell Auger-Langejan says both Camosun and the provincial government conveyed the policies in a fair and strong manner.

Camosun College Student Society external executive Mitchell Auger-Langejan (file photo).

“Students who will put measures in place to protect them are ultimately better educated and have more tools, not only to know what’s wrong and right in those situations, but what’s in place to protect them,” he says. “A student who’s educated about that is ultimately empowered in that regard.”

Camosun, he says, also does a good job in being clear in its policy by eliminating ambiguity. (Camosun College vice president of student experience Joan Yates did not respond to a request for comment.)

“They go really into detail about what is and isn’t acceptable,” he says, “and how these things are dealt with [in a] fair and equitable way.”

Writing terms and policies, says Auger-Langejan, is important so that the average person knows what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. But some situations are complex, and these policies account for that, he says.

“They talk about situations in which an individual isn’t able to [give] consent. If two people get together and they’re both really drunk, the situation becomes complicated. People in those situations do need to consider their actions before they proceed because it’s more difficult to gauge a person’s state—what they want, what they’re comfortable with—when they’re inebriated like that,” says Auger-Langejan.

College students specifically, says Auger-Langejan, should learn about this part of the act.

“They will be, from time to time, put in a situation where they have to make a judgment call there, and making the right one could be potentially a very important thing for them,”  he says. “A clear understanding of what those situations are and how to act appropriately is one of the strongest points.”

First year Psychology student Cortnee Erickson says that it’s important that everyone has their voices heard.

“Especially on a sensitive topic like that, definitely people’s voices need to be heard,” she says. “I think that’s really smart. You’re getting people’s views on it, you’re getting people’s opinions on the matter.”

First year Environmental Technology student Andrew Warren says he wants people to be able to freely express themselves with healthy and normal behaviours such as dating and flirting, but he says that it is a fine line.

“People shouldn’t feel like they’re victims in any circumstance,” he says. “There should be a platform where people can report things that they feel are threatening their safety, and any awareness that people can raise about what their actions might make other people feel—I think that’s valuable.”

Auger-Langejan says the provincial government put forth “strong straight-forward guidelines” that asked for specific input.

“Something that’s quite common is people put policies in place,” he says, “but unless they’re enforced or discussed or people are educated about them, they don’t have a lot of power over change.”

Feedback on Camosun’s policy and ministry guidlines can be given until 4 pm Monday, January 29 at engage.gov.bc.ca/preventsexualviolence/feedback.

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