Dear UFV community,
Yesterday, the student newspaper, The Cascade, published an article on how our University responds to students who have been sexually assaulted. The headline was “Nowhere to go”, a statement that is completely false. I am writing because I fear the impact on any student needing help who reads this and assumes that none is available.
Our University is known for the many faculty and staff who take a personal interest in our students. Many have a long, strong record of helping students in need. We have student leaders who are quick to support their peers. We have a full student service division with 8 trained counsellors ready to respond to any student need. We have University administrative staff and leaders who have a record of putting students first. I would add that if a student prefers to speak with a female senior administrator about any concerns, two of our three vice-presidents, five of our six deans, and our Chancellor are women. There are many places for a student to go.
Like most universities and colleges in our province and country, we continue to work toward improving the ways we will respond to sexual harassment or assault. Our Vice-President Students is working very closely with the Ministry of Advanced Education and her provincial colleagues to develop best practices to guide post-secondary institutions on preventing, educating and responding to sexualized violence. We welcome constructive advice from our students.
I am precluded by privacy legislation from commenting on details of the Cascade article other than to state that we do not tell students who ask us to investigate a case of sexual harassment or assault that they cannot talk to family or friends outside the University. We encourage them to seek support from people they trust and respect, and provide them with immediate and full access to our counselling services. We also help them connect with community services. We do, however, ask them to help us protect the integrity of an investigation.
I have asked our Vice-President Students to provide the community with a summary of the processes and services available to students. Her office is about to release a “Safe Student Community” website that describes student supports, processes and policies. This will be published on Monday. As always, we seek your guidance on how we can improve. A mechanism for collecting your recommendations will be provided.
Let us all continue to explore the best ways to serve our students, a principle that has guided our University throughout our history.
Dr. Mark Evered
President and Vice-Chancellor