Between the Motions//

Between the Motions: AMS Council defers sexual violence and workplace conduct policy revisions

At its final meeting of the year, AMS Council voted to defer revisions of the society’s respectful workplace and sexualized violence policies, extending a two-year review following student criticism. 

On the agenda were two revised policies for Council approval — PC1, which outlines respectful workplace conduct, and PC2, which includes internal procedures for disclosing and responding to sexual misconduct. 

Both policies apply to all AMS members, clubs, non-student staff and subsidiaries. 

The policies have been under review since September 2021 and were both passed in 2019 with a requirement for review every two years. 

In December 2022, AMS President Eshana Bhangu said the AMS was working on making the policies more accessible for students and ensuring they were legally sound as they affect AMS employees. 

Bhangu also hoped the revised policies would be approved by the middle of term — but it took until last night for drafts to be presented to Council for approval. 

One notable change in the PC2 revision is the investigation process for reports of sexual misconduct brought forward by AMS members. Rather than going to the Operations Committee — as stated under current policy — the draft said investigations will be overseen by the AMS Ombudsperson or an independent third party. 

At the meeting, several students spoke against the drafts — including Dana Turdy, who had previously worked on the review process as AMS strategy and governance lead and VP academic and university affairs. Turdy went on leave from the VP role in January.

Turdy said she did not see the work of the AMS policy advisor or the views of consulted groups like the AMS Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) reflected in the drafts being proposed. 

Bhangu said that the drafts had been revised several times by lawyers and human resources professionals, but that there was “a lot of overlap” between the versions. 

Daniel Anene-Akosa, the current president of the Student Legal Fund Society, said the PC2 draft did not meet minimum standards for sexual violence policies which the AMS has endorsed, including protections from gag orders and a two-year policy review period.  

“I find it appalling that the AMS will demand the provincial government include minimum standards in provincial laws, but will not hold themselves or the executive to the same account,” he said. 

VP External Erin Co said while the policy did not specifically mention gag orders it included similar confidentiality protections.  

Two students, who did not provide their names, also criticized the addition of a clause in the PC2 draft which says individuals who make false claims of sexual violence “may be subject to corrective action.” 

"[The false claims clause] adds a barrier to reporting sexual violence ... are we trying to make survivors feel as though they shouldn't come forward?," one student said.

Speakers and councilors also noted the limited time they had to review the drafts, which were posted publicly on the same day as the meeting. 

Before Council could debate the policies, Bhangu moved to defer their approval to the next Executive Committee and Council, who start their terms on May 1.

She noted the lengthy review period and issues with the current policy PC2, in particular the investigation process for AMS members. 

“There’s a lot that needs to be changed with the current policy,” she said.