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Ottawa universities get passing grade on sexual violence policy—but lots of room to improve

The report, led by three students from Carleton, found that the quality of sexual violence response policies varied widely across the country.

Jade Cooligan Pang, Kelsey Gilchrist, and Caitlin Salvino are the chairs of Our Turn, a study of 14 university sexual violence policies that was released on Wednesday.

Kieran Delamont / Metro Order this photo

Jade Cooligan Pang, Kelsey Gilchrist, and Caitlin Salvino are the chairs of Our Turn, a study of 14 university sexual violence policies that was released on Wednesday.

A student-led review of 14 universities' sexual violence response policies handed out a 'B' grade to the University of Ottawa, while Carleton received a 'B-'.

The scores were released in a report called 'Our Turn,' which was published by the Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU)

Of the 14 policies studied, those are on the upper end—half of the schools scored a C- or below—but advocates say there is still plenty of work to be done to make those policies survivor-friendly.

The review was born out of the frustration that three Carleton students—Caitlin Salvino, Kelsey Gilchrist, and Jade Cooligan Pang—experienced while trying to work with the school's administration when their draft sexual violence response policy was first released last fall.

What began as an attempt to improve Carleton's policies quickly grew into a nation-wide report that examined the policies of schools across the country. "We decided that we were going to create a plan at Carleton," said Gilchrist. "But we realized that this wasn't a Carleton problem. This was a university problem, a societal problem."

Ultimately, the three teamed up with the SSMU at McGill to create and release the national report.

Catherine Kelly, the VP of internal affairs at the Carleton University Students' Association, welcomed the review and hopes it will generate further cooperation with the administration to improve the policy.

"Carleton is working with us, they're seeing us as a student movement," she said. She and her student union worked with Salvino, Gilchrist and Cooligan Pang on a policy that will tie club funding to members receiving consent training.

She hoped that the report will allow schools to look at what others are doing and incorporate that when reviewing their own policies around sexual violence. "If students didn't agree with the actual policy, there really wasnt a way for us to understand what other student unions or student groups were going through as well," she said.

One of the problems, said Leila Moumouni-Tchouassi, is that policies are inaccesabile to students, many of whom don't even know they exist. "How many students know that we have a policy?" she asked. "To have arms open in the dark means nothing to a lot of people."

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