Brandon, Man., profs update syllabi in wake of sexual harassment case
By Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Brandon University professors are updating their syllabi to raise awareness about the school’s policies and protocols on sexual harassment and assault on campus.
The school’s music and science faculty councils have voted to update course outlines to include details about resources related to discrimination, harassment and sexualized violence.
Students who study those subjects will soon see the contact information for BU’s sexual violence co-ordinator alongside orientation details about course assignments and required textbooks.
Academics in the arts, education and health studies faculties are expected to vote on the same motion.
“In view of the ongoing mishandling of sexualized violence cases on campus, we have become aware that students are not familiar with the policies and protocols that regulate appropriate conduct on campus, nor are they cognizant of the personnel supports and services that are available to them,” states the preamble of the motion, which has been circulating among faculty.
Corinne Mason, an associate professor of gender and women’s studies, co-wrote the motion to encourage colleagues to educate students on the existence of the school’s sexual violence education and prevention office.
“Making sure students are aware of it is the bare minimum, and that’s where we’re at. We’re at the 101 stage,” said Mason, who has criticized the university for silencing survivors of sexualized violence, inadequately addressing complaints, and cutting the hours of a co-ordinator who supports survivors.
Earlier in the fall, the Free Press revealed senior staff had disregarded the school’s sexualized violence policy during a 2020-21 investigation into student athlete allegations of misconduct, some of which are sexual in nature, against a coach. The students were only informed about BU’s sexualized violence policy and referred to the co-ordinator after a generic harassment investigation concluded in the spring — more than six months after the initial complaint.
After a reporter asked BU about the situation, the university announced it would hire a third party to redo the investigation.
In the wake of the incident, student Ainslee Lockhart organized a virtual event for students to discuss consent in both online and physical spaces with the Gender Empowerment Collective.
Lockhart said there’s a dearth of public education about the resources available to students at BU and the decision to cut hours of the sexualized violence co-ordinator has not helped.
Information about the office is shared with students during orientation workshops and training events throughout the year, in addition to being listed on a BU webpage.
“I hope (syllabus updates) will make a difference but without a strong person in that office and without the university putting funding into that office and making it well known across campus … it won’t make much of an impact,” said Lockhart, a women and gender studies student.
Mason said the goal is to get every faculty council to pass the motion. It is also an accountability mechanism so academics know where to refer students, said the associate professor, who added, “It’s simple, but hopefully impactful.”
The Brandon University Faculty Association has endorsed the initiative.
A university spokesperson said BU has promoted sexualized violence supports through “periodic social media posts, digital posters on our closed-circuit TV system, and the like” throughout the pandemic because many students are learning remotely.