U of M investigating several sexual assault, harassment allegations
Published Wednesday, September 5, 2018 3:43PM CST
Last Updated Wednesday, September 5, 2018 7:48PM CST
The president of the University of Manitoba apologized Wednesday to students who have experienced sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus.
“Inappropriate behavior, including sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus is unacceptable, and, quite honestly, I find such conduct to be horrible and appalling,” said David Barnard in a statement.
“Today, I am apologizing to students who have experienced such inappropriate behavior. I am deeply sorry.”
Barnard said the university is working to expand services to help students identify and report any type of sexual violence. He also said that he is committed to mandatory education on sexual violence, consent and power relationships for faculty, staff and students.
“My promise to you is that we will do everything possible to shape a safe and healthy environment, and we will deal expeditiously with all violations that are reported,” he said.
In the statement Barnard goes on to address a letter of employment that was given to former faculty member Steve Kirby, after students alleged that he sexually harassed them.
Barnard said that he was under the impression that the letter was simply a chronology of Kirby’s work at the university, but he has come to find out that it included activities and achievements which could be construed as support from U of M. He said the inclusion of this information was a mistake.
“The letter in no way recommended him for any position. Anywhere,” said Barnard.
The statement said that to improve the university’s process when dealing with these types of situations going forward, lawyer Donna Miller will co-lead an examination. Her job will be to look at policies, procedures and execution and to provide a report on how to proceed.
“We will investigate how those accused and those found to be in violation are dealt with in terms of our contractual obligations, employment status, letters of employment, references, and so on,” said Barnard.
OTHER INCIDENTS UNDER INVESTIGATION
The University of Manitoba said there are currently five open investigations, all involving faculty members. It said two are currently on leave.
Of the five investigations, the university said one involves sexual assault and personal harassment, another involves sexual assault and sexual harassment, a third involves sexual harassment, and the other two are regarding human rights complaints.
Barnard said he couldn’t speak to specifics, but said, “We’re committed to due process and to protecting the confidentiality of those with the courage to come forward.”
Barnard said these recent issues have forced the university to pause and reaffirm its commitment to a culture where sexual assault and sexual harassment are not acceptable.
“We won’t tolerate this on our campus,” said Barnard. “I won’t tolerate this on our campus.”
ENHANCING SEXUAL VIOLENCE PREVENTION TRAINING
The university launched a new video during student orientation sessions Tuesday introducing students to consent and sexual violence. Vice-provost (students) Susan Gottheil said the university will be delivering presentations to graduate and international students, as well.
“All new faculty and new academic administrators learn about consent culture, sexual violence policies, and responding to disclosures as part of their orientation,” said Gottheil.
She said they will also working with Bisons athletes and coaches, as well as the residence community to provide the education and supports that best meet their specific needs.
Town halls and meetings with members of the community will be taking place over the next few weeks to review and update the university’s sexual assault and respectful work and learning environment policies. Gottheil said the last time the university did this, 85 consultations were held.
She said they are also increasing support for students on campus.
“Counselling staff are embedded within faculties. More staff have been employed in our human rights and conflict management office, and we’re bringing more of our off-campus partners, such as Klinic, on site.”
Students who are looking for more details on available resources related to sexual violence can go to the U of M website.
- With files from CTV's Stephanie Tsicos