Campus LifeNews

Demonstrators in Lister protest how sexual assault cases are handled

Over 35 demonstrators appeared on the second floor of Lister Centre in protest of the way the University of Alberta handles sexual assault cases.

On January 25 at 2:15 p.m., a group of demonstrators walked into Lister Centre just outside the Maple Leaf Room where a joint meeting was being held with various university administrators in attendance. Sam Pearson, one of the demonstrators and the director of the Sexual Assault Centre at the U of A, told the administrators standing in the hall that the current system for handling sexual assault cases is flawed and in need of reform.

Pearson explained that at the end of a sexualassault investigation, an individual who has been sanctioned under the Code ofStudent Behaviour can approach the U of A Appeals Board (UAB) to re-examine adisciplinary decision. However, Pearson said the problem is that members of thatboard lack the proper anti-sexual violence training.

Another problem addressed by Pearson during the demonstration is that the Code of Student Behaviour allows for de novo hearings, the full re-trial of misconduct cases, which she said re-victimizes survivors of sexual assault.

“This is not an attack on proceduralfairness or the rights of the accused,” Pearson said. “This is aboutfixing the flaws in the procedure to begin with so that no one is harmed bythis process. Because when it comes to current conduct cases involving sexualviolence, we are causing people who have been victimized additional trauma bysubjecting them to an unnecessary and re-victimizing process.”

While a 2016 review of the university’s sexual misconduct procedures recommended that training should be provided to people involved in the process, Pearson said the problem has not been addressed three years later.

Pearson also listed 10 demands that are necessary to improve the process, including the suspension of all UAB hearings, a review conducted on the UAB’s most recent decision, amending the Code of Student Behaviour to no longer allow de novo hearings, and the delivery of anti-sexual violence training to UAB members.

Following Pearson’s address, Deputy Provost Wendy Rodgers thanked her for organizing the demonstration. Rodgers said a review of the Code of Student Behaviour is already underway, though she acknowledged that the review has not kept pace with the issue.

Rodgers added that the university is committed to having sexual violence training put in place immediately, as well as some of the other demands listed by Pearson that the university could commit to immediately.

“Obviously there are some individuals thatfeel that we are not doing enough for survivors of sexual assault, and we needto look into that, and we need to look into our own processes,” she said.

Dean of Students Andre Costopoulos added thatsome of the issues Pearson had listed were being addressed but agreed with Rodgersin that reforms weren’t happening fast enough and that “it’s time to step up.”

“We want survivors to engage with the process,to feel that they’re safe… and we have to work on making sure that the processmeets the needs of the survivors and respects the rights of the person underallegation,” he said.

As for Pearson, she hopes to see written supportfor those next steps to be taken and that she fully intends to hold theuniversity accountable if those steps aren’t taken.

“This is by no means the end of the fight,” she said. “It’s great that Wendy Rodgers was here but that doesn’t mean that our work is over.”

Nathan Fung

Nathan Fung is a sixth-year political science student and The Gateway's news editor for the 2018-19 year. He can usually be found in the Gateway office, turning coffee into copy.

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