Montreal

McGill launches new mandatory online course on sexual violence and consent

As an answer to Quebec's new requirements for sexual violence prevention, McGill University has developed its online course which will be mandatory for all students and staff.
McGill students and staff will have to take an online course focusing on sexual violence and consent. (McGill University)

As an answer to Quebec's new requirements for sexual violence prevention, McGill University has developed its online course which will be mandatory for all students and staff.

The law countering sexual violence on campus was passed in December 2017, after a series of sexual assaults were reported at the student residences at Université Laval in Quebec City.

Colleges, universities, law schools and police academies were required to adopt their own sexual violence policies by Jan. 1, and have them in effect by Sept. 1.

McGill decided a mandatory online course was necessary.

"Because our campus is so broad and so big, the most effective way to reach everybody in a timely way was through online education modules," said Angela Campbell, the associate provost of Equity and Academic Policies.

Incoming students will have to complete the course before arriving on campus for the new school year. Returning students will have to complete it before November. Those who do not, will not be able to register for the next semester courses.

Staff members, including faculty, will have until January 2020 to complete the course.

Concerns over content, deadline

The Students' Society of McGill University says it welcomes the news of the course, but takes issue with a number of things.

"Students weren't really consulted on the content of this training and so it came as a bit of a surprise to us to see the actual content itself," Madeline Wilson, the VP University Affairs, told CBC.

But the biggest cause for concern, SSMU says, is the differing deadlines for students and faculty.

"The fact that students are being held to a different standard than staff and faculty is absolutely ridiculous," said Sanchi Bhalla, VP Internal for SSMU.

Last year, student leaders alleged the school didn't properly handle complaints against at least five professors in the Faculty of Arts over allegations of "abusive" behaviour and sexual violence.

A professor launched a $600,000 lawsuit against a student and fellow professor over a "ruthless campaign" regarding a relationship with a student that he said was consensual.

Campbell says the university is taking the issue seriously.

"One of the modules speaks to questions of power dynamics and interpersonal relationships between faculty and students," she said.

"It really sets out to define clearly what's appropriate, what's not, what's professional, what has integrity and what doesn't."

Campbell says staff have a later date to complete the course so it coincides with their annual performance review.

With files from Jaela Bernstien

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