October 16, 2018
Dr. Kent MacDonald, President and Vice-Chancellor
St. Francis Xavier University
Mr. Andrew Beckett, Vice-President Finance & Administration, Head of Student Services
St. Francis Xavier University
Dear Kent and Andrew,
Recent press reports have brought to light the StFX handling of the sexual assault case of a woman student. We, the undersigned faculty, are deeply committed to insisting on the solution-focused change that is necessary to decrease and halt the sexualized violence culture at StFX. We are specifically speaking to the experiences of women faculty. Collectively, we have taught at StFX for over several hundred years. Many of us have, along with students and staff, consistently born witness to students’ accounts of being sexually assaulted and harassed. As faculty, listening to even the generalities of these harrowing and violent stories, and helping students navigate possible paths to justice, has involved an exceptional amount of emotional labour—a burden that we bear in honour of our students. However, the time has come to shift this burden of responsibility to the StFX Administrative level. Although we very much appreciate Administrative efforts thus far, we wish to avoid the policy hamster wheel that may result when flawed policies, however well intentioned, are ‘reviewed’, rather than replaced with evidence and expertise-informed documents. In this case, expertise-informed can be defined as it generally is in an academic setting—individuals with long-standing and recognized (i.e., inside and well outside the confines of X) content and policy expertise in a specified area. To this end, we expect the following specific solutions. These solutions are closely informed by the student and community member gatherings that took place last week, and the student-led petition that was initiated yesterday.
1. Initiate a Community Forum within two weeks (by Oct 30), so that you too can hear students, faculty, staff, and community members’ perspectives on this issue.
2. Immediately (as of Oct 16), initiate an Anonymized Sexual Assault Reporting System, whereby the campus community are informed of the occurrence of sexual assaults on campus. There are policy templates from universities in Canada and in the US. The time is well past for X to step up.
3. Create a Sexualized Violence Task Force at StFX by December 1, 2018. Members must include:
a) at least three experts in sexualized violence and trauma-and-violence-informed policy-making (these experts are readily available in the Antigonish Community and among faculty at StFX);
b) at least three student survivors of sexual assault at X (students are already well organized to provide first voice expertise);
c) the President of the Students Union;
d) the President of the University;
e) the Human Rights and Equity Advisor; and,
f) the Head of Student Services.
The purpose of the Task Force is to inform policy change—to provide a cohesive voice that can rectify fragmented approaches to sexualized violence, where numerous, and not necessarily congruent, documents, approaches, and policies are implemented at X. Although these approaches provide a ‘suite’ of options for students at X who have been sexually assaulted, there is substantive evidence that in times of extreme trauma such as sexual assault, service fragmentation is decidedly re-traumatizing. The mandate of the Task Force is the mapping of all existing sexual assault related policies and the timely creation of a new and evidence-informed approach to sexual assault at StFX.
The resulting approach must:
a. Pass the test of being trauma-and-violence-informed (see expertise comments above).
b. Circumvent the current maze that traumatized students must navigate.
c. Provide clear mandates for training and education in sexual assault and trauma-and-violence informed policy-making. Currently, there is no expectation that any individuals involved in policy-making, reporting and appeals processes have any core education to guide their decisionmaking. An ‘interest’ in the issues, and/or institutionally mandated membership in a group or panel, does not necessarily constitute capacity to make evidence informed decisions.
d. Be congruent with the Canadian Criminal Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As evidenced by recent events, there may be a disconnect between X policies, such as the Community Code of Conduct, and these two pivotal federal documents. It is important to note that university processes are ‘quasi-judicial’, not judicial; therefore, although they of course must adhere to the laws of the land, they can be changed in-house, to reflect more up-to-date processes and procedures that are already in place at other universities.
4. Create and strictly maintain a Sexualized Violence Report Card for the StFX Community. This Report Card would trace/track incidences of Sexual Assault, and StFX responses, and outcomes. The purpose of the Card is also to inform progressive, evidence informed policy change.
We are copying the Deans of all Faculties at StFX because we know that sexualized violence is hampering the academic mission of the university in its profound impact on the everyday academic performance of the numbers of students who have been sexually harassed and assaulted.
We stand with her. We will not be silenced.
Dr. Elizabeth McGibbon, Professor
Dr. Rachel Hurst, Associate Professor
Dr. Rhonda Semple, Associate Professor
Dr. Donna Trembinski, Associate Professor
Dr. Ranke Devries. Associate Professor
Dr. Erika Koch, Associate Professor
Dr. Mary Oxner, Professor
Dr. Sharon Gregory, Associate Professor
Dr. Margo Watt, Professor
Dr. Erin Austin, Associate Professor
Dr. Donna Halperin, Professor
Dr. Christina Holmes, Assistant Professor
Dr. Linda Darwish, Associate Professor
Dr. Maria Paz, Associate Professor
Dr. Amanda Casey, Associate Professor
Dr. Ornella Nzindukiyimana, Assistant Professor
Dr. Maureen Coady, Associate Professor
Prof. Sionnach Lukeman, Assistant Professor
Prof. Jacqueline Van Wijlen, Assistant Professor
Dr. Isabelle Bauge, Associate Professor
Dr. Angela Weaver, Associate Professor
Dr. Jen Jamieson, Associate Professor
Prof. Marion Alex, Associate Professor
Dr. Joanne Tompkins, Professor
Prof. Marie Arnott, Assistant Professor
Dr. Karine LeBris. Associate Professor
Dr. Katarin Macleod, Associate Professor
Dr. Jennifer Mitton, Associate Professor
Dr. Laurie Stanley-Blackwell, Professor
Dr. Lynda Harling-Stalker, Associate Professor
Dr. Claire Fawcett, Associate Professor
Dr. Norine Verberg, Associate Professor
Dr. Sue Vincent, Professor
Dr. Tara Taylor, Associate Professor
Dr. Jessica Husk, Assistant Professor
Dr. Johanna Black, Assistant Professor
Dr. Kailin Wright, Associate Professor
Dr. Melanie Lam, Assistant Professor
Dr. Patricia Cormack, Professor
Dr. Nancy Forestell, Professor
Dr. Rejeanne LeBlanc, Associate Professor
Dr. Kim McLean, Associate Professor
Dr. Karen Blair, Assistant Professor
Dr. Katie Edwards, Assistant Professor
Dr. Charlene Weaving, Professor
Dr. Christie Lomore, Associate Professor
Dr. Laura Estill, Associate Professor
Dr. Riley Chisholm, Associate Professor
Dr. Maureen Moynagh, Professor
Dr. Leona English, Professor
Dr. Catherine Aubrecht, Assistant Professor
Dr. Doris Gillis, Professor
c: Dr. Petra Hauf, Dean of Science;
Dr. Karen Brebner, Dean of Arts;
Dr. Tim Hynes, Dean of Business;
Dr. Jeff Orr, Dean of Education