UBC apologizes after CBC's the fifth estate investigates delay on sex assault complaints

The head of UBC has apologized to the women in a special the fifth estate investigation into sexual assault "who feel they have been let down by the university." One of the women plans to file a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

Grad student finally expelled a year and a half after 1st formal allegations, investigation discovers

University of British Columbia president Martha Piper extended an apology on behalf of the institution after a CBC investigation into sexual assault complaints by a number of women on campus. (UBC)

The head of the University of British Columbia has apologized to the women in a CBC special the fifth estate investigation into sexual assault.

"I want to apologize to the women in these cases who feel they have been let down by our university," Martha Piper, 
interim president and vice-chancellor, said in a statement issued online.

"We admire the courage of the women who came forward to bring attention to this crucial issue."

Despite the apology, one of the former students in the CBC's story, Glynnis Kirchmeier, says she plans to file a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal by the end of the year. She's asking anyone who reported sexual misconduct to the school during the past 20 years to contact her at

"UBC has a legal duty to provide a harassment-free environment," she said. "UBC's chance to do the right thing is over ... The university is going to be tried in the court of public opinion, and then it is going to answer to the BC Human Rights Tribunal, and I suspect it will be tried in civil court as well."

Kirchmeier says when she approached UBC's Equity Inclusion Office about a sexual misconduct she witnessed, she was told in effect to keep quiet.

UBC vice-president of equity and inclusion, Dr. Sara-Jane Finlay, listens to former student Glynnis Kirchmeier, right, at a press conference on Nov. 22 where Kirchmeier announced she will file a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal over the school's treatment of people reporting sexual misconduct. (CBC)

In School of Secrets, which will be livestreamed online Monday evening, the fifth estate reveals that UBC took more than a year and a half to act against a grad student despite mounting complaints of harassment or sexual assault by at least six women on campus.

Piper acknowledged that "the process took too long" and that it was "frustrating and time-consuming."

"I appreciate the light the women have shone on this issue," Piper said, pledging to create a sexual assault policy that will handle complaints "in a more timely and effective manner."

"We will be reviewing the steps that were taken in these cases to determine how they might have been handled more effectively and expeditiously," she said.

Delayed investigation

The women allege a 28-year-old PhD student in the history department committed a wide range of offensive acts against them from inappropriate touching to sexual assault, starting at least as far back as the spring of 2013.

UBC, whose Vancouver campus is pictured here, at one point urged a number of women to enter mediation with the man alleged to have attacked them. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The first formal allegations against him were brought to the university in spring 2014. 

In one case, a woman went to university officials to get UBC to take action, but says the university dismissed her complaint because the alleged assault took place off campus. 

UBC officials at another point urged mediation between the female students and the PhD student, which the women refused. One of them said it was not appropriate to have to sit in a room with someone alleged to have sexually assaulted them. 

The university quietly expelled the grad student last week. He told the fifth estate he is appealing the decision.