U of T news

Expert panel on sexual violence recommends one set of procedures for all members of U of T community

Photo by Johnny Guatto

Centralized disclosure, reporting, investigation and adjudication of complaints among the recommendations

The University of Toronto needs to ensure that all members of its community are covered by the same set of procedures when it comes to matters of sexual violence, says the expert panel asked to give guidance on the development of a new policy.

That recommendation is one of 40 contained in a report from the panel, led by Mayo Moran, professor of law and provost of Trinity College.

The report, released August 11, also calls for norms or levels of protection from sexual violence that do not depend on one’s status in the university; centralized disclosure, reporting, investigation and adjudication of complaints to protect against conflicts of interest and fears of bias; and resources and supports that are easy to find and access. It includes recommendations on defining key terms such as consent, sexual assault, sexual and gender-based harassment and the difference between disclosure and reporting.

“It’s important that all members of our community feel safe on our campuses, that those who are affected by sexual violence know where to get help and that our policies reflect our commitment to a safe and inclusive environment,” University of Toronto Provost Cheryl Regehr said.

Angela Hildyard, vice-president Human Resources and Equity, welcomed the report. “I want to thank all the panel members for their hard work and thoughtful recommendations,” she said.

The panel calls for the new policy’s statement of purpose to include a commitment to prevention, education and training, as well as support for those affected by sexual violence, and that it be inclusive and recognize the vulnerability of members of historically marginalized communities.

The panel’s work is part of U of T’s action plan to prevent and respond to sexual violence. As part of that plan, other panels will offer advice on education and prevention activities and on the development of a new sexual violence climate survey. The three groups were established earlier this year in response to the recommendations of the Presidential and Provostial Committee on Prevention and Response to Sexual Violence.  

The university asked Moran and her panel members to consult and offer advice in two areas:  the reporting process for sexual violence cases and the investigation, resolution and adjudication process for these cases. The panel’s recommendations will help shape a new stand-alone policy on sexual violence and follow in-person consultations on all three campuses, as well as written submissions collected online.

The university will take the recommendations and begin drafting the new policy. Consultations on the draft policy will take place beginning in September. Provincial law requires that the new policy be in place by January 2017.  That means it will go to U of T’s Governing Council before the end of the year

“There was great community engagement on this issue across all three campuses including students, faculty and staff,” Moran said. “The feedback was thoughtful and enormously helpful to the work of this panel as well as on the larger issues. These issues are incredibly important and we were very pleased that the university community was so committed to making positive change and so helpful in thinking about how to make that happen.”

Saagarika Coleman, an undergraduate student at Victoria College and a member of the panel, said it is important that students are provided with clear information about the new policy and know where to find it. 

“Getting information out there is so important,” she said. “There is a huge need.”  

Members of the Expert Panel on Sexual Violence Policies: 
Mayo Moran (Chair), Professor, Faculty of Law, and Provost, Trinity College 
Saagarika Coleman (Undergraduate Student), Victoria College, Faculty of Arts & Science
Lahoma Thomas (Graduate Student), Department of Political Science, Faculty of Arts & Science
Mark Overton (Administrative Staff Member), Dean of Student Affairs and Assistant Principal, Student Services, University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM)
Brenda Cossman (Faculty Member), Professor, Faculty of Law, and Director, Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies