UPDATED: Student leaders say Ryerson’s sexual violence policy isn’t reaching all students

Ryersonian Archive File

Ryerson’s Sexual Violence Policy outlines reporting options for survivors of sexual violence and also focuses on education, awareness, and “consent comes first.” (Ryersonian Archive)

Ryerson student leaders agree with administration that the new Sexual Violence Policy is raising awareness on campus, but worry that the message isn’t reaching the average student.

Tamara Jones, vice-president equity at the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), said she notices more awareness of the policy, but only among students actively involved in the Ryerson community.

“Some students do know [about the policy], but it does need to be broader,” Jones said. “The wording isn’t accessible. And a lot of students are so busy. There’s not really time to sit down and read a long policy.”

Sexual violence on campus remained a significant focus this summer due to Bill 132, the Ontario law that requires post-secondary schools to meet certain guidelines when addressing sexual violence. Ryerson’s policy, which was approved in June 2015, outlines reporting options for survivors of sexual violence and also focuses on consent, education and awareness. The policy is currently under a scheduled review by the university and will have to be revised to better accommodate Bill 132.

Campuses across the country have tried to raise awareness — for example, in early September, the students’ union at the University of British Columbia (UBC) rolled out a campaign promoting UBC’s new sexual assault policy on coffee cup sleeves.

Jones said there are currently no plans for a Ryerson-wide marketing campaign similar to UBC’s efforts, but she thinks it would be “really beneficial.”

The RSU has partnered with the Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education (OSVSE) to distribute information about the policy.

Heather Lane Vetere, the vice-provost of students who also spearheaded the policy, said she  knows it’s difficult to make sure everyone knows about the policy, but is happy with the progress so far.

According to Lane Vetere, there are many ways the policy is being promoted on campus, including the use of social media and a Consent Comes First video created last year. The video was distributed to every Ryerson student via email at the start of this term and the previous academic year.

Lane Vetere said a lot of promotion is focused on incoming students via orientation events. This year, flyers and postcards were included in the RSU’s welcome kits, and “consent comes first” was printed on every orientation T-shirt. Farrah Khan, co-ordinator of the OSVSE, also held workshops during orientation, which Lane Vetere said thousands of students attended.

Lane Vetere said she knows that student leaders are more likely to be aware of the Sexual Violence Policy and the support systems in place. She believes it’s important that students have informed leaders when it comes to questions or experiences of sexual violence.

However, both Lane Vetere and president Mohamed Lachemi know their work isn’t done. “You can have policies in place, but if you don’t have a strong program of education in place, people will not pay attention to the policies,” Lachemi said. “I’m very happy we have this progress so far, but I will not be happy if we stop here.”

Revamping the policy for Bill 132

When the Ontario government passed Bill 132 this spring, it became mandatory for every college and university in the province to create a standalone sexual assault policy that is reviewed and updated every three years. Although Ryerson’s Sexual Violence Policy has been in place for over a year, it’s still under review because of the new law.

Ryerson’s policy needs to be reviewed to make sure it meets all of the the regulations required by the new law. Lane Vetere said that in a lot of cases the regulations required by the government already exist on campus but are defined within the policy — which is what the government is requiring. For example, Bill 132 says a list of support services on and off campus must be included within the policy. Ryerson does currently have a list, but just not within the policy.

“We have a starting point from the procedures,” Lane Vetere said. “But we need to edit them as necessary.”

Lane Vetere said the goal is to have the revised policy ready for board of governors approval by November. The province’s deadline for all post-secondary schools is January 2017.

Upcoming Events

Orientation week may be over, but there are still a number of events promoting sexual violence awareness on campus in the coming weeks.

1. Free Zine Making Workshop with Frizz Kid

Location: Layton Room (Ryerson Student Campus Centre)

Date: Sept. 21 Time: Noon to 2 p.m.

A free artistic workshop, hosted by Ryerson grad Hana Shafi, where participants will help create a zine that will be launched at Sexual Assault: The Roadshow during Social Justice Week.

2. Open Meeting #1 for Students — Sexual Violence Policy Update

Location: Jorgenson Hall 1410

Date: Sept. 26 Time: 6 to 8 p.m.

Hosted by Heather Lane Vetere and Farrah Khan, this students-only meeting provides a space for discussion and feedback on Ryerson’s policy. A second meeting will be held Nov. 7.

3. Consent and Tea

Location: International Living and Learning Centre 102

Date: Oct. 6 Time: 1 to 2 p.m.

Learn about consent, support resources, and what Ryerson is doing to address sexual violence.

4. Self-Healing Through Yoga and Art

Location: Tecumseh Auditorium (Ryerson Student Campus Centre)

Date: Oct. 24 Time: 6 to 8 p.m.

Learn about self-care and love at the next installment of Ryerson’s monthly yoga and art series for those who have been affected by sexual violence.

5. Sexual Assault: The Roadshow

Location: Gould Street

Dates: Oct. 30 to Nov. 5

This travelling pop-up art gallery is held in a shipping container and features art that “talks back” to sexual violence.

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