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Opinion: Tackling sexual assault policy is needed, but long overdue

Editor Jenna Tytgat argues that regardless of the new sexual assault policy being implemented, the enforcement could fall flat.

By Jenna Tytgat

Langara College is finally drafting an extensive sexual assault policy, and it’s about time.

The college is reaching out to students for their opinions and input, and overall, it seems like a very positive process so far.

Students can submit feedback online about how to get the word out about the policy and what should be included, or take part in a confidential 90 minute discussion group. The student involvement is quite promising.

The unfortunate part, is that this wasn’t Langara’s idea. The college is merely complying with a new provincial bill, Bill 23, stating that all post secondary institutions must have a clear sexual misconduct policy. This policy is going to cover sexual assault and sexual harassment for students and staff, and will extend to anyone involved with the college in some form or another, although the reach the policy will have is still to be seen.

It is surprising that Langara did not already have an extensive policy outside of their student code of conduct. The college has a campus safe walk program, and The Voice did an article last year and a recent follow-up on the security cameras, all of which should have prompted the need for a new policy.

Policy proceeding still met with caution

With semi recent reports of sexual assault in B.C. and across Canada on campuses, it should have been safe to think that the college would have taken it upon themselves to update their policy without prompting from the provincial government.

The fact that sexual assault still happens is a terrifying reality. There needs to be understandable, cut and dried, policies in place in schools to help prevent assault, and how to deal with it should it happen.

Clear consequences are very important for the offender and set resources for victims, should a student, faculty member, or anyone involved with the college face assault.

As the public consultations draw on and end in early November, it will be interesting to see what Langara’s approach ends up being and what is included in the policy.

Along with a proper policy, though, comes the need to enforce it. The policy may end up looking great on paper, but unless the college is strict and consistent in enforcing it, the policy may fall flat.

All in all, points to Langara for drafting a new sexual assault policy. Partially in the way that you give someone hypothetical points for not stealing your wallet, but points nonetheless.

Read our related story about the policies on sexual assault here.

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