Students propose policy on sexual harassment to political science department

The Political Science Students Association is pushing forth a department-wide policy on sexual harassment and gender sensitivity.

Sydney Snape, VP academic of the PSSA, said that the policy was born from what she, along with several other executives and political science students, saw as an urgent need to address the lack of conversation around sexual assault and consent both at UBC and in larger society.

“We recognized that this is something that goes on everywhere, especially at any university,” said Snape. “There’s something that needed to be done as an educational process and a tool, so students have an easier time accessing resources and understanding what consent means.”

The PSSA’s three objectives in the policy include making educational resources on sexual assault available for professors both in their offices and online, implementing open and optional workshops on -- and possibly adding a summary on -- consent and sexual harassment support resources on the syllabi for all political science courses. Suggestions in the proposal include engaging with staff at the Sexual Assault Support Centre and UBC Access & Diversity to organize workshops and asking professors to spend some time going over sexual assault during the first class of the term.

"If you have that on every syllabus and every student is looking at that and in the first class, you go over TurnItIn, you go over your assignments, you go over what the professor thinks about this and that and in that little summary in the first class you have the professor saying 'this is not tolerated, this is why this is not tolerated. You have resources available and I will not tolerate this as a professor,'" said Snape. "As soon as you have that accountability, it uses that as a way of prevention."

According to Snape, the PSSA hopes that UBC will implement aspects of their proposal in September. The PSSA is currently in the process of meeting with professors in the department to discuss the specifics of putting it into place.

“We wanted to create a policy and an open environment so that students and faculty could communicate a lot better about how to get these resources,” said Snape. “So the second part of that is ‘How do we get students to get these resources?’”

Katharina Coleman, political science professor and chair of the equity committee that will be evaluating the policy, said that the committee will look at the proposal, make recommendations on it and then pass it on to the head of the department.

“We have had a chance to review the proposal,” said Coleman. “The process then is that we would provide comments on it to the head of the department and it would then go to a discussion within the department, a department meeting.”

Coleman also said that it is too early to say when this meeting will take place or whether any part of the proposal is likely to go through.

Still, Snape said that she hopes that the PSSA can set an example for similar policies for implementation in other departments and faculties at UBC.

"Even though I'm in political science, engineering and biological sciences are dealing with the same issues because it's the same type of academic culture and it's the same worries and concerns and gaps in the system that every department has, so it's not just specific to political science," said Snape.