A panel report on UBC sexual assault will be released early this week after being submitted to the president’s office back on June 20.
Lucia Lorenzi was a member of that panel, which worked for three months to develop recommendations “to lay the groundwork for a UBC-wide sexual assault action plan,” according to the university’s website.
Lorenzi says the report will call for a stand-alone policy for students reporting sexual assault, as opposed to falling under the umbrella of the non-academic code of misconduct which handles issues like vandalism or plagiarism.
Under this policy, victims may have to share their stories with multiple people, and the process is not always clear or transparent, says Lorenzi.
Another issue the panel aims to see changed is that a panel of fellow undergraduate students currently have the ability to evaluate discipline for a reported sexual assault, which Lorenzi calls “troubling.”
“There should be people in more senior positions and not students who are often left to judge their peers on whether or not a sexual assault was committed and what the punishment should be.”
These students could be peers of the survivors, or lack the expertise to make that kind of judgement call.
The panel report will also call for sexual assault to no longer be treated as an “interpersonal conflict” that goes through mediation.
“The survivor has to sit in a room with the person who they’ve accused of sexual assault, so that process as well is really complicated. Because we know, yes, inter personal conflicts do happen at the university, but a student who doesn’t get along with their supervisor is much different than a student who may have been assaulted by a supervisor.”
So what has taken so long for the report to come out?
Lorenzi says she was initially under the impression that the contents of the report would be able to be openly shared quickly following its completion, but nearly three months have passed.
Part of that delay can be attributed to the change leadership, as new UBC president Santa Ono came in over the summer.
But Lorenzi also says the delay in releasing the report speaks to a lack of consistent accountability by the university.
“One of the main points that we call for in our report is institutional accountability and that has to do with even this process, the release of the report, unexplained delays… And institutional accountability doesn’t just mean releasing the report and then forgetting about it, it means figuring out a way to engage with it long term, as the policy gets developed, as the action plan gets developed, and then to check in one, two three, five years down the line.”
Lorenzi says she doesn’t want to see the report released and then forgotten.
“I think often sexual assault doesn’t get treated with the seriousness is deserves.”