York Continues to Fail on Sexual Violence Response

The Trans Feminist Action Caucus (TFAC) has recently been made aware that York University has created another working group, the Sexual Assault Policy Advisory Committee, in response to York University’s Sexual Violence Policy, passed in December 2016. This Committee is said to be created to provide ongoing assistance and make recommendations on York’s policy. At no time was TFAC even made aware of York’s intentions to create a new working group or advisory committee, let alone invited to be a part of the advisory committee.

For over two years, CUPE 3903 and TFAC have been increasingly vocal about York University’s need to take sexual assault on campus seriously, to be open and transparent about their policies and processes for dealing with sexual assault and the conception of their new sexual assault policy, and to put real supports in place for survivors and community members. At each turn we have been disappointed.

TFAC has been calling on York University to take our call for substantive consultations with CUPE 3903 and other various student, faculty, and community groups seriously for over a year and a half. Not only did TFAC have to fight to have a spot at the table, but once allowed in the room it was made clear to us that York University was not interested in substantive productive consultation and communication.This refusal to properly consult with TFAC, CUPE 3903, and similar groups was the main issue that left TFAC with no choice but to withdraw from York University’s failed consultation process surrounding the Sexual Violence Policy.

When TFAC raised important concerns about York University’s policies, our concerns were largely ignored. TFAC took issue with the University’s policy being perpetrator-centric and not survivor-centric as was claimed, for refusing to protect survivor’s confidentiality when requested, as well as many other issues. To date we have failed to see these critical issues addressed.

Furthermore, in the current round of bargaining between York University and CUPE 3903, the union has brought forward several proposals aimed at addressing sexual violence on campus and supporting survivors. These include mandatory paid anti-sexual assault training for contract faculty and teaching assistants, paid leave for CUPE 3903 members affected by sexual and gender based violence, a support fund for survivors of sexual violence. So far minimal movement has been made toward supporting a sexual and gender based violence leave, and the proposal for a support fund has been completely denied. Minimal movement has been made regarding mandatory paid anti-sexual assault training. The employer believes that only contract faculty should get the full paid training, which shows a complete misunderstanding of how classrooms at York are structured. Teaching Assistants are often the instructors with whom students have the most contact, increasing the chances that they could receive a disclosure of sexual violence.

The relationship CUPE 3903 members have with the student body is an important part of why we deserve to be meaningfully consulted. York also has a responsibility to its employees to make sure that the policies it enacts do not make things worse for them. The refusal to deal with sexual violence in a meaningful way at the bargaining table, combined with the exclusion of CUPE 3903 and TFAC from this new advisory committee, demonstrates how York University is not taking its commitment to respond to sexual violence seriously. We call on York to do better and live up to its stated commitment a meaningful and survivor-centric response to sexual violence on campus.