UBC faculty write open letter to apologize for school's sexual assault policies

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A group of faculty members at the University of British Columbia have issued an open letter to apologize for the school’s policies on addressing sexual assault.

On Wednesday, a letter was tweeted by philosophy associate professor Jonathan Ichikawa, which has since been signed by 68 professors mainly from UBC’s Faculty of Arts.

The letter notes that “students and alumni who brought forward reports of sexual assault have suffered additional harm due to UBC’s policies and procedures.” It infers that the school’s administration has failed in doing what is required to address the issue, and that faculty members are now taking action into their own hands.

This is largely in response to the findings of a CBC The Fifth Estate investigation in November 2015: It revealed that the university did not take any action on 28-year-old History PhD student Dmitry Mordvinov for a year and a half. Six women came forward with allegations of sexual assault since 2013, but he was only expelled a week before the airing of the documentary.

In addition to the apology and acknowledging that more action needs to be taken, the letter says that the signees will actively consult with other faculty, students, and staff to create new policies and procedures in time for the start of next school year in fall 2016.

Here’s the full text of the open letter by faculty members:

In recent weeks, it has become clear that there are serious problems with UBC’s sexual assault policies and procedures. President Martha Piper’s broadcast email to the UBC community after the fifth estate report acknowledged that UBC must act in a “more timely and effective manner” and promised to “begin a discussion with students, faculty, and staff” on developing a sexual assault policy.

The current problems, however, do not seem limited to efficiency or timeliness, and we need more than a discussion. It is clear that some students and alumni who brought forward reports of sexual assault have suffered additional harm due to UBC’s policies and procedures. We, as a group of UBC faculty members, wish now publicly to acknowledge this harm that resulted from a failure of UBC to take as seriously as it should its duties of care to members of its community. As faculty members, we share in a responsibility to ensure that UBC fulfill its obligations to protect its community. We apologize to the people affected for not doing and not demanding better.

We now pledge to the UBC community that we will take an active part in improving UBC’s policies and procedures regarding sexual assault and related matters of safety and equity. This action will include gathering material relevant to improving UBC policies and procedures, discussing sexual assault among faculty and with students and staff, consulting with experts both within and beyond the UBC community, and helping to ensure that UBC engages in a fully consultative process regarding new policies and procedures in order to have those new policies and procedures in place no later than the start of classes for the 2016–17 academic year in September.

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