Barrister and solicitor Paula Butler, of Butler Workplace Solutions, an independent expert in workplace harassment, who was retained by the university in December to review UBC’s response to concerns of sexual harassment and sexual assault raised by UBC students regarding a fellow student, has shared her findings with UBC.
Her executive summary report determined there was no breach of UBC’s policies, including Policy 3 Discrimination and Harassment, the Student Code of Conduct, and Rules for the President’s UBC Vancouver and UBC Okanagan Non-Academic Misconduct Committees.
In addition, she found that staff who were involved in responding to the complaints all acted in good faith.
Butler also found:
- There was a lack of clarity around policy and processes. The lack of clarity stems in part from the inclusion of sexual assault language within a broader policy encompassing human rights-based discrimination. In particular, the difference between a formal and informal complaint was unclear to the women.
- There were clearly delays in handling the complaints that flowed from this lack of clarity, the number of departmental units involved, miscommunication and human error.
- Some students felt silenced while the complaints were being investigated and the allegations were still unproven due to staff concerns about defamation.
- CBC’s assertion that it took over 18 months to deal with the complaints was misleading. A complainant raised a concern in January 2014, but did not file a formal complaint until December 2014, and that complaint was not included in the October 2015 Non-Academic Misconduct Committee hearing.
Overall, the review pointed to a system with flaws for dealing with sexual assault and the need for clear direction and a more centralized, coordinated approach when students bring forward complaints of sexual assault.
In conducting the research for her report, Paula Butler interviewed over 20 people at UBC and beyond. UBC thanks Paula Butler for her thoughtful and detailed review. Her findings further reinforce our commitment to ensuring support for survivors of sexual assault. Work has already begun to create a sexual assault policy that will help to clarify the process when a student brings forward a complaint of sexual assault. A first draft of the policy will be delivered to the Board of Governors in June.
We have established a University Panel on Sexual Assault, which includes leading experts from UBC on the subject. Faculty-led consultations began today with a two-day session focused on discourse and dialogue. Further on-campus sessions are planned. Please continue to check this site for details on how to get involved.
All of us at UBC have a role to play in addressing the societal issue of sexual assault. We have a duty and an obligation to ensure people who come forward with a complaint feel duly heard and that the reporting process is clearly understood. Together, we will continue to work collaboratively to provide a safe, respectful campus community.
Martha Piper, Interim President & Vice-Chancellor
Sara-Jane Finlay, Associate Vice-President, Equity & Inclusion