UBC – 3 Sexual Attacks, Inappropriate Frosh Week – What’s Next?

Posted by Shannon Walker

on October 22, 2013

graphic logo campus conduct hotlineA month after the University of British Columbia received negative press coverage for the inappropriate froshing activities of its business students, it is in the headlines again.   This time for three sexual assaults on three female students on campus in the past month.

A fourth attack may have taken place over the weekend, according to the Ubyssey student newspaper, although no one has come forward yet to the RCMP.

University RCMP Sgt. Drew Grainger said the assaults have become his detachment’s top priority.  “We’ve had three confirmed attacks here within three weeks. That’s obviously very concerning to all the stakeholders at UBC,” according to reports to CBC News.

Tips on any of the incidents are being received through the University RCMP at 604-224-1322 or through Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

While the administration can not do much to deter sexual assaults on campus besides trying to educate students to use the buddy system, protect themselves and not walk alone on campus, they can offer the students another method of reaching out anonymously to raise concerns about behaviour on campus.

Anonymous channels of communication are available to educators, administrators and students throughout numerous universities and colleges in the United States. Higher education facilities in Canada are lagging far behind in their governance and oversight strategies designed to empower those who are witness to the countless infractions that occur on campuses daily.

In today’s environment, it is critical to design systems that will allow management to access legitimate concerns from every level of user on a university campus.  From the student witnessing harassment, to the janitor witnessing time misuse, to the researcher witnessing conflict of interest – all of these incidents can be more proactively addressed if the university has the proper systems in place.

The first of which is a strong Code of Conduct followed by support and adherence to the ‘Tone at the Top’ by Management.  This is key to instilling a level of commitment and credibility to the Code.

Second, is a compliance program based on a critical and realistic risk assessment. Comprehensive consideration should be given to all aspects of the operations of the university and then aligned within the expected behaviours under the Code.

Third, clearly defined roles and responsibilities – as well as strategies and expected outcomes need to be articulated.

Ongoing training and communication is key in both the delivery of the values of the Code as well as to the adherence to it on a consistent basis. Employee and vendor screening is also imperative to ensuring the right people and partners are in place.

And finally a whistleblower hotline and case management system are necessary to ensure all stakeholders have access to the system anonymously and confidentially.

If empowering students, administrators and educators is one of the values held by the upper echelons of our higher learning institutions, they must begin to commit to putting these systems in place – both to protect the stakeholders but also to protect the integrity and reputation of the institution itself.