British Columbia

UBC's new sexual assault policy one step closer

The University of British Columbia wrapping up consultations on a new sexual assault prevention and response policy. The university has faced tough criticism on how it has handled allegations of sexual assaults on campus.

Consultations wrap today, university promises clarity on reporting procedure and who will investigate

The University of British Columbia is wrapping up a round of consultations on its new sexual assault policy. The consultations have been running since mid-June. (Christer Waara/CBC)

The University of British Columbia is wrapping up a round of consultations on its new sexual assault policy.

The new policy comes after the university faced serious criticism over its handling of a number of high profile incidents.

One of those incidents was the years-long delay in expelling a PhD student accused of assaulting multiple women — the subject of an investigation by CBC's the fifth estate.

One of the complainants ultimately launched a human rights complaint against the university, alleging the school created an unsafe environment for students. The case has yet to be resolved.

The issue of sexual assault on campus is not limited to UBC, earlier this year the province passed legislation making it mandatory to have sexual assault policies in place by May 2017.

UBC drafted a new sexual assault policy in June, and critics said the policy wasn't clear enough for sexual assault complainants.

Louise Cowin, UBC's Vice President of Students, said drafting the policy has been complicated.

"Sexual assault is not a new thing. It's a pervasive problem and it's something that universities across this country and North America are struggling to get right [with] policies and processes with respect to survivors," she said.

She said the new policy will offer more clarity and about where to report a sexual assault and who will investigate, adding the timeliness of response will also be an important consideration.

The consultations — which have taken place online and in-person at information sessions since mid-June — have led to  important feedback.

Some students expressed concerns about student members listening to allegations of sexual assault during an investigative hearing, she said, and that will also be clarified in the new policy.

She added privacy of both the sexual assault survivor and the respondent would be of utmost importance.

"We are trying to get this right. It's something that we acknowledge we need to do better at," she said.

In the meantime, Cowin said more consultations will take place in the spring with a re-drafted version. A final version will be approved by May to meet the legislative deadline. 

With files from The Early Edition

To hear the interview, click on the link labelled Fall consultations on UBC's new sexual assault policy wrap up