Leadership from the academy

It’s been a busy fall for our Parker P. team. We’ve been spending a lot of time back to school: our first two projects have us hitting the books and reading up on the 21st century university.

Alongside our work with our friends at the University of Regina, we have been working with the Provost’s office at McGill University. With Ontario and British Columbia having new legislative requirements for universities and colleges to adopt and implement sexual violence policies, McGill University began efforts to consult with its community on this topic. Canadian universities have been in the spotlight on this issue as horrific incidents of sexual violence have been reported in recent years.

We worked with McGill University over the past few months to support the development of their first ever sexual violence policy. Students at McGill had invested an incredible amount of work and leadership in forming the basis of a draft policy with a particularly strong focus on survivors. Taking the policy to the broader community and weighing a wide range of perspectives, and polarizing opinions showed that the University was intent on getting this right.

With the passage of the sexual violence policy last month by the university’s senate and board of governors, this marks an important step in formally acknowledging and recognizing that sexual violence has a high cost for everyone at the school.

In hosting a series of consultations with community members, following an open on-line consultation process, the administration at McGill did something remarkable.

It listened.

It listened carefully.

The policy that has just been adopted by the university lays out the foundation for addressing issues of sexual violence at the university. It calls for a new dedicated office, with trained staff, a commitment to campus-wide education, prevention and awareness activities, and outlines how survivors will be supported throughout a disclosure and reporting process.

We’ve seen this issue divide many organizations and communities, but what has been remarkable in this process with McGill is the commitment to listening and learning — and adapting so that the policy reflects the needs of the community.

Now that the policy has been adopted, the school will set out to undertake the hard work of breathing life into the policy. With a clear line drawn in the sand that they are committed to seeing change for its community members, it will be very exciting to see how they proceed. At a time when others are being forced into action, McGill is setting out to define how and what it can do to address gender violence on its campus.

Check out their policy here: http://www.mcgill.ca/secretariat/files/secretariat/policy_against_sexual_violence.pdf

And, hear from McGill community members on this: http://montrealgazette.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-why-canadian-universities-need-a-policy-against-sexual-violence

Congratulations, McGill! We’re all tuned in to see the next chapter.