Prof says policy flawed by conflict of interest

    (Book Sadprasid\The Aquinian)
    (Book Sadprasid\The Aquinian)
    (Book Sadprasid\The Aquinian)

    Prof. Karla O’Regan said the university would have benefited from consulting with the Criminology Department in drafting the new sexual violence policy.
    “I think there are some rational reasons why you might have asked some members of the university’s faculty what they think of this,” said O’Regan.
    The Criminology Department has the policy on its agenda for next week.
    “It’s certainly not an antagonistic position we’ve taken on,” said O’Regan. “We are planning to write a response to the policy simply because it does implicate a number of our areas of expertise.”
    O’Regan said the real concern is conflict of interest.
    The policy states a range of possible disciplinary actions, ranging from a written warning to expulsion. The problem lies in the hearing board that decides what action to take.
    “The hearing board is chaired by the associate vice president of student enrolment and management. I think there is a very clear conflict of interest,” said O’Regan. “You have someone in that position whose job rests on the ability to heighten the level of enrolment, and maintain [high] student recruitment and retention.”
    Jeffrey Carleton, communication director for STU, did not comment directly on why the department was not consulted. He did say, “the administration is responsible for these kinds of policies, and of course we did consult with a lawyer on regards to the legal aspects.”
    Carleton also said this is the first he has heard of any conflict of interest.
    “The concern about a conflict is the first time that I have heard this mentioned in this or any other context,” said Carleton.
    O’Regan said she would have also liked to have seen something in the sexual violence policy about the university’s requirement to report.”
    Overall, she feels the policy is good.
    “STU needs to be applauded for having a policy like this. It’s a very progressive move, in particular I think their consultation with FSAC is to be applauded,” said O’Regan. “The policy is very sensitive to rape culture and the very difficult context in which people do make disclosures about sexual violence. I like the language in it around a non-judgmental approach.”
    She is, however, concerned about how three policies, the Non-Academic Misconduct Policy, the Policy on Sexual Violence, and the Harassment and Discrimination Policy, will work together.
    As a complaints officer under the Harassment and Discrimination Policy, she feels administration should have brought together the complaints officers as they are “the frontline workers for receiving these complaints.”
    Those who did help write the policy include: the director of student services, a representative from administration, the dean of social sciences, a social work professor who worked with the Fredericton Sexual Assault Centre, counterparts at UNB, and a lawyer.
    “I think it’s troubling that I receive these policies at the same time everyone else does, over email; and that as a complaints officer. I have no idea how these three policies are to speak to one another,” said O’Regan. “It would have been great to have seen a draft, held some focus groups, or get some feedback.”
    While she believes the new policy is certainly a step in the right direction, the Consent and Coercion workshop held in September, which no one attended, suggests the university has a lot more work to do.
    “Here we have an info session that’s been published and people are supposed to go and no one attends, and yet administration assumes students are just going to read these and understand (a sexual violence policy)?”