The consultation period for UBC's new sexual assault policy has been extended past its original deadline of September 30. The exact length of the extension is yet to be determined by UBC's university counsel, Hubert Lai, but the university has until next spring to finalize a sexual assault policy before they meet the legislative deadline.
The longer consultation period is largely due to the fact that a report written by the university sexual assault panel has yet to be released to the public.
The volunteer panel was appointed by the president to lay the groundwork for a UBC-wide sexual assault action plan. Working independently of university administration, the panel worked to outline a sexual assault action plan for the campus.
While the report became available to the president on June 20 — a day before the draft sexual assault policy became available for consultation and right before the end of interim president Martha Piper's term — it was not released. According to Finlay and Benedet, this is mainly because of the three different presidents UBC had over the summer — two interim before Santa Ono took over on August 15.
“He needed time to digest it and learn about the context here at UBC, and find the appropriate time to release the report to our community, which he is going to do shortly,” said Associate VP Equity and Inclusion Sara-Jane Finlay.
The Globe and Mail has since said that the panel report will be released tomorrow on Monday, September 12.
News that the consultation period will be extended has largely been met with general positivity.
“I’m happy that the consultation period has been extended,” said panel chair Janine Benedet, a professor and co-director at the Centre for Feminist Legal Studies at Allard Law. “Given that so much of the original period was in the summer, which is not a very good time for engagement between faculty, students, staff and community members, I’m pleased that we have more time to work on getting this very important policy right.”
Benedet also emphasized that this longer time period will make sure that the panel report can serve the purpose it was meant to.
“The report that we prepared goes well beyond what goes into a sexual assault policy, but it was always meant to inform the discussions around what a standalone sexual assault policy might look like for the university,” she said. “We were always promised from the very beginning that the report would be publicly released.”
Samantha So, the AMS's VP academic and university affairs, was also pleased to hear about the extension.
“We weren’t really to pleased with [the initial consultation period] because no one is really here [over the summer] and September is a really information heavy month, so we didn't foresee that getting as many responses as we really wanted it to.” said So.
The AMS is currently running an awareness campaign and trying to increase student involvement in the consultation for the sexual assault policy. Given the initial deadline of September 30, they had planned to stop collecting student responses to the draft policy on September 21 so as to allow time to compile them. This timeline will now be delayed by a week, built on the assumption that the consultation period will end sometime in October.
As a part of their campaign, the AMS will also be holding consultation sessions in partnership with the Sexual Assault Support Centre, where students will be provided with information along with the chance to submit their opinions.