Decade in review: The life and development of Policy 131

With Policy 131, UBC’s sexual violence policy, up for review next year, all eyes are looking to see how the university will continue to address sexual violence.

The policy came into effect after Martha Piper, former UBC president and vice-chancellor, announced the university would begin working on a sexual violence policy following a CBC investigation into the mishandling of more than six claims against Dmitry Mordvinov, a former history TA and PhD candidate. The investigation was released in 2015 but the instances date back to 2013.

Glynnis Kirchmeier, a UBC alum, said her reports about Mordvinov were stuck in limbo for 22 months while in talks with the university over their case.

In emails obtained by the CBC, Mordvinov admitted to knowing that the sexual acts were non-consensual. Even still, the university tried to silence students.

Kaitlin Russell, a former executive in the history graduate students' association, said: "The takeaway message from this whole thing has been that one male student is somehow more valuable to this institution than a handful or a dozen or however many women."

A 2015 Board of Governors document stated that Policy 3, which formally collected all types of discrimination including sexual-based offences, only formally investigated 6 of 273 files.

On May 19, 2016, shortly after Piper’s announcement, the provincial government mandated all public universities to create a standalone sexual violence policy within a year. UBC’s Policy 131 came into effect on May 18, 2017.

UBC was also under fire after multiple Human Rights Tribunal complaints, including Kirchmeier’s, surfaced in response to alleged instances of sexualized violence. UBC does not publish sexual violence statistics but it is believed to follow the national averages of one in five women being impacted. These complaints were eventually investigated by the RCMP.

One of those survivors wrote a letter to The Ubyssey.

“An attack like this one is personal,” she wrote, “I feel violated as I walk around campus overhearing conversations about ‘that girl who was attacked,’ or sitting in class within earshot of classmates discussing my attack.”

The Galloway scandal

Steven Galloway, former creative writing department chair, lost his job after what UBC called an “irreparable breach of trust.” This came after Judge Mary Ellen Boyd’s investigation, commissioned by the university, found that Galloway had made repeated inappropriate advances towards the plaintiff, writing that “the [main complainant’s (MC)] failure to expressly object to his behaviour was the byproduct of the power differential between the two parties.”

Judge Boyd also concluded that her investigation could not substantiate MC’s allegations of sexual assault.

Two years after Judge Boyd’s investigation concluded, Galloway filed defamation suits against the MC, multiple professors and former students.

Galloway’s defamation cases against those alum and faculty is still ongoing, with a BC Supreme Court judge recently ruling that Galloway could access to the defendants' emails and online posts, something a later judge ruled the defendants could appeal.

In a separate instance, Galloway was awarded $167,000 in damages in mid-2018 as a result of the findings by an independent arbitrator, who wrote: “certain communications by the University contravened [Galloway’s] privacy rights and caused harm to his reputation.”

Policy 131: One year later

A year after Policy 131 was released, The Ubyssey investigated it’s effectiveness only to find that while a step in the right direction, the policy severely missed the mark. The UBC community was left without a clear picture of how to report instances of sexual violence.

“It really is a failure that we are now a year into this policy, and I don’t think that we’re better off from when we passed the policy,” former AMS VP Academic and University Affairs Max Holmes told The Ubyssey.

This year, the provincial government has pushed to better address sexual violence on post-secondary campuses by launching a prevention campaign. The university and AMS claim it complements their existing internal efforts.

Cristina Ilnitchi told The Ubyssey “A lot of the work that's happening now, to be honest, is catch up.”