AMS in process of updating sexual violence, anti-discrimination policies

The AMS is currently reviewing its sexual violence and respectful workplace policies.

Policies I-17 and I-18 outline administrative procedures and resources available when sexualized violence or bullying and harassment occurs. The policies were first passed in 2019.

The AMS specifically hopes to make the policies more comprehensible, ensure they correspond with the AMS’s values and ensure that there are adequate resources to provide the support needed.

AMS Policy Advisor Mimi Neufeld has been heavily involved in the revisions. The review process began in summer 2021 when forms were circulated within the AMS to gain feedback on the policies. Neufeld said the AMS has been consulting with the Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) to help identify the problems with the policies. The UBC Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) has also been consulted on this policy.

SASC manager Aashna Josh said her biggest concern with both policies is the lack of accessibility when it comes to understanding the documents.

“You shouldn't need a degree or expertise in policy to be able to look at one and know what to expect and what [the] process or procedure looks like."

This is a sentiment AMS President Cole Evans echoed. He said the policies can be "very jargony," and hopes they can be improved to become easily accessible.

The AMS has identified five major areas that need improvement.

The first area is principles and values. Neufeld said the policies are currently more general and employee-oriented, but they should instead "reflect the values of our current student community" as this directly affects how policies are approached and how resources are allocated. These values include things like becoming more trauma-informed and equitable.

Another issue is ensuring there are enough resources, like money and staff, so the AMS "can follow through with commitments" to provide help.

The policies also fail to clearly outline what resources exist for people affected. Neufeld said simple details need to be added, such as writing in "what supports are available, like providing a section on the SASC."

Prevention education is another focus point. Evans said that policies are currently a lot more reactive on responding to incidents, but they should also start thinking about how we are "preventing these incidences from happening."

The policies have declarations to "commitments to education," said Neufeld, but they have not been properly acted upon, she said. Part of this education would also be properly training people who deal with the incidents.

The last area in need of improvement is the actual reporting and adjudication process. This details a person's options when making a report, who is responsible for enforcing it and what the outcomes would be. Neufeld hopes to include more information to clarify how the process works and once again ensuring that each part of the procedures “is in line with our values.”

Surveys have also been created to allow students to give their input on I-17 and I-18.

Right now, the policies are actively being rewritten and changes are being made. The SASC is also involved in policy writing, and Josh said they have been "writing definitions, changing wording, languaging in the hopes of really bringing it to a place where it's actually supportive of people who experience sexualized violence."

The goal, Evans said, is to have the final draft completed by April and for the policies to be fully implemented by September 2022.

Neufeld hopes people become more aware of the policies.

“The ultimate goal is to have these policies that support people that have been impacted by violence and making sure that these policies support them in the ways that they need."

This article has bene updated to add that SVPRO has also been consulted in the review of these policies.