An independent review of the way UBC handled several sexual assault allegations found unnecessary delays and unclear policies on reporting sexual assaults.
UBC launched the review after a CBC investigation alleged mishandling of several sexual assault complaints regarding one former PhD student, Dmitry Mordvinov. Despite the drawn-out response to the complaints, the report from Paula Butler, a lawyer of Butler workplace solutions, found that all UBC employees involved acted in good faith and followed university policies.
Butler found that UBC didn’t violate Policy 3 or the Student Code of Conduct, the UBC policies that relate to sexual assault. Although neither of those policies were directly violated, the report said UBC’s systems did not work well together and contributed to confusion on how to report cases of sexual assault or harassment, including the difference between a formal and informal complaint.
“The lack of clarity, and the delay that flowed in part from this lack of clarity, reveals a flawed system,” Butler wrote in the report. “Even if a better communication system or protocol was implemented amongst the different groups to improve coordination, it is not optimal for one complainant to have to tell her/his story to four or five different people and to have to be asked on numerous occasions if she/he wants to go through a resolution process, all of which happened in this case.”
The report found that UBC didn’t delay handling the complaints long enough to constitute “procedural unfairness,” but noted several delays, including a two-and-a-half-month gap between a student filing a formal complaint and that file being forwarded to the correct person. The longest delay the report found was 10 months between a student reporting a concern to a staff member and any action being taken on the report.
The report also noted feelings of students being silenced, attributed in part to students not being allowed to present a statement on harassment and discrimination at a department meeting, and being told not to mention Mordvinov’s name.
“The system of handling such sexual assault complaints needs to change. Well drafted policies and procedures specific to the severity of sexual assault complaints that provide clear direction to both staff and students as well as a centralized, coordinated approach across the university are the foundation of a responsive and timely system to deal with allegations of this kind of serious misconduct,” read the report.
The university is currently reviewing its sexual assault policies and is expected to draft a new, standalone sexual assault policy this year.
Associate VP Equity and Inclusion Sara-Jane Finlay said UBC would take the report's recommendations into account when drafting the new policy.
"Clearly we’ve got some work to do around clarity and around delay and making sure that people have the right information that they need about the policy and the process," Finlay said.
"To have [the concerns] explained so clearly in the way that they have been in the report from Paula Butler is extremely helpful and illuminating for the institution. And certainly when we review the policy, they’ll be things we’ll want to take into account.”