News / Edmonton

One year later: University of Alberta has made some progress on response to sexual assault

University is at work on all 46 recommendations made in February 2016.

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The University of Alberta has made progress on improving campus response to sexual assault, student leaders say, one year after the release of a report calling for changes.  

The Sexual Violence Review Group report released last February made 46 recommendations for things like more staff training, an emphasis on supporting survivors, better tracking of assaults, small changes to the discipline process and a consent-based education program for all students.

“A lot of people are asking about the progress,” said Francesca El Ghossein, VP of student life at the U of A. She said she is satisfied with the progress that's been made.

The university has four working groups – support, education and outreach, accountability, and assessment – that consist of students and staff members.

However, El Ghossein said there are areas that could use extra attention, like clarifying where students can go to disclose assaults. Consent training should also be more available on campus, she said, adding that the student union is currently working on ensuring executive and counsellors have that training.

“I would like to see that more widespread. I would like to see professors, faculty, staff and everyone in the university community have that training,” El Ghossein said.

Deborah Eerkes, director of student conduct and accountability, said 10 of the 46 recommendations were able to be implemented right away and work is still underway on the rest.

She said it’s a heavy workload, and the four working groups have not yet worked out what costs might be associated with implementing all of the recommendations.

“A lot of them are things we can do systemically, internally, without additional funds,” Eerkes said.

A standalone policy on sexual violence has been written and approved by the Campus Law Review Committee, and is expected to reach the board of governors by June.

“To get a policy through the university governance takes an awful long time. It’s a huge effort and it’s just about done,” Eerkes said.