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.
TFAC statement on our withdrawal from the Sexual Violence Policy Working Group
On September 30th, TFAC was invited by CUPE 3903’s Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) to participate in York University’s Sexual Assault Policy Working Group. Prior to this invitation, JHSC had been pressuring York for over a year to properly consult CUPE 3903 on their sexual assault policy. After months of being denied information, of being told that there was no written policy or procedures, and of ignoring our feedback, York invited CUPE 3903’s JHSC to sit on their Sexual Assault Policy Working Group. Upon entering this working group and attending meetings in November, TFAC has discovered that York has already drafted a policy, a policy that does not respond to the criticisms CUPE 3903 has raised, and that its policy is not being used as a basis for informed consultations with community members.
For all of these reasons, TFAC is withdrawing from York’s sexual assault policy working group. TFAC is disappointed in the policy that York seems determined to push through the Board of Governors. And we call on CUPE 3903 to push back against the employer and demand a survivor-centric policy in replace of the poor substitute that York is determined to offer.
Before this chair at the table had been offered, CUPE 3903 raised issues with York regarding the need for substantive consultations, not just with CUPE 3903 but with various student, staff, faculty and community groups, that will be affected by this policy and who have been active in fighting sexism and rape culture within the York community. To date this form of substantial consultation has not taken place. Instead, York continues to sideline these groups while pointing to the inclusion of singular representatives from a few student groups on the working committee as constituting proper consultation.
Consultations with staff, faculty, and community groups have only recently been initiated. These consultations are taking place too late in the process as York is planning to pass their policy through the Board of Governors in December and to release a policy by January 1st as Bill 132, the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, mandates. By only being invited to participate in this process when the policy’s due date is mere weeks away, it is clear that input on this policy is not actually desired.
Furthermore, it was only after entering the working group and attending meetings that TFAC was told by the administration that all information pertaining to the working group (including both discussion in meetings and the policy itself) was to be kept strictly confidential. This is something that TFAC never agreed to, and in fact spoke up against in a meeting with the employer when conditionally accepting a spot on the working group. TFAC rejects the false confidentiality that is given to this policy process. We see this as a tool to keep dissent hidden, to avoid open and substantial consultation, and as a mechanism for pushing through a problematic sexual assault policy against the interest of our members.
TFAC has pushed back against both the interim policy released by York on September 20th, and the draft policy which is being kept secret behind the closed doors of the working group. TFAC has insisted that any policy must be survivor-centric, which means active, informed, and engaged consultation with survivors at every stage of the process. Nothing in the process indicates that survivors have been actively engaged. While York continues to use the language of ‘survivor-centric’ throughout all documents that have been made public thus far, this has been merely a rhetorical device. TFAC condemns this rhetorical sleight of hand.
The interim guidelines (in themselves and as an example of the policy to come) continue to be perpetrator-centric. Further concerns that TFAC have raised include (but are by no means limited to) calling attention to the needs of survivors to take a lead role in all processes and allowing survivors to be the primary decision makers. York interim guidelines fail these suggestions in many ways; for example, in not being committed to keeping survivor confidentiality when requested. These criticisms of York’s interim guidelines, and the policy yet to be released, have been brought to York’s attention for over a year, and yet the administration continues to ignore the voices raising these concerns and instead continues to misleadingly use the language of survivor-centric. York’s refusal to acknowledge the shortcoming that CUPE 3903 continue to raise not only leaves this criticism unaddressed, it gives off a false sense of confidence in the policy to provide proper assistance. For all of these reasons, TFAC is withdrawing from York’s sexual assault policy working group.
What do we want?
A Survivor-Centric Sexual Assault Support Centre and Policy. A survivor-centric sexual assault support centre would be open 24 hours a day, staffed with specially trained nurses and counselors who are available to help survivors with whatever it is the survivor needs: medical care, emergency housing, how to navigate establishing a safety plan at the university etc. The staff will be under no obligation to break the survivor’s confidentiality in any way at any time. A survivor-centric policy puts the needs of the survivor first because it is developed and written by survivors and clearly incorporates research on survivor-centric responses and the testimonials of survivors. It is neither concerned with protecting the university nor protecting the assailant. Instead, it demands survivors be heard, respected and believed.
— — — TFAC ACTIONS — — —
To commemorate the Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR) on November 20, TFAC joined other relevant campus groups, including, among others, CWTP, the Trans Caucus and OPIRG to display a gender-neutral bathroom in Vari Hall. We spoke with students in Vari and distributed information about trans-related issues as well as background on the day of remembrance itself.
Here are some pictures of the action:
Further, we also exhibited a preferred gender pronoun/designation form, and on this day we sent a call-out to allies to send an email to York Administrators, asking them to tell York to stop stalling and implement an Ontario Human Right Code-consistent chosen name and gender change process.
— — — —
We had a TFAC Social on Saturday November 15 and had a great time meeting TFAC members, chatting about union acivities and TFAC projects on the horizon. We also had awesome t-shirt screen painting at the social and produced some amazing prints!
Here are some pictures from the t-shirt making:
— — — —
Along with OPIRG, YFS, CWTP and other campus groups, TFAC is organizing an action in Vari Hall for the Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR) on Thursday November 20. We are building a gender-neutal bathroom and exhibiting it in Vari Hall, and will distribute information about the history TDoR to students.
We’d love TFAC members to join in the action! Here is a glimpse of the bathroom in its early stages:
— — — —
We had our fourth meeting with the Radical Knitting Collective in the CUPE 3903 office. The meetings of the Radical Knitting Collective thus far been a success and well received by attending members.
— — — —
On Monday Sept. 15th TFAC organized Taboule with TFAC where our members came out to meet undergraduate and graduate students on campus and gave out free homemade salad and information about CUPE in front of Vari Hall. In just under one hour we were able to feed over 85 students and share information about TFAC and the Local’s work!
Here are some pictures from this successful action:
— — — —
The 4th Annual Toronto Disability Pride March!
Date: Saturday October 4, 2014
Place: Starting at Queens Park and marching to The School of Disability Studies at Ryerson (99 Gerrard Street East)
Time: 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Why we’re Marching:
- To bring recognition of the struggles and value of people with disabilities as we fight against ableism and other forms of oppression.
- To be visible and show that we have a voice in our community and a right to be heard by taking to the streets.
- To celebrate and take pride in ourselves as a community of people with disabilities.
The Toronto Disability Pride March aims to promote a cross-disability atmosphere, that also recognizes other forms of oppression such as race, class, gender, sexuality, sanism, etc. We believe the disability movement is strongest in a harmony of voices, not one homogeneous voice. We ask all those who plan to attend the march to respect this approach and the other people within the space of the march.
For more information: http://torontodisabilitypride.wordpress.com
Click here to read TFAC’s recent Statement on the Circulation of Racist Flyers on Keele Campus, passed on Wednesday August 20.
TFAC is currently involved with a number of other projects on campus and in the city. We will give updates about these as they come at our monthly meetings. All TFAC members of CUPE 3903 are encouraged to attend and participate!