A university has been forced to denounce a contract it made those alleging sexual assault sign which required them to not discuss the case with third parties - or risk being expelled.
Brandon University in Manitoba, Canada, has issued a public statement after an outcry, saying it now recognises its “student behavioural contract” to be “inappropriate,” adding it “will no longer be using them.”
The contract - which has since been labelled a “gag order” by campaigners - has been confirmed as genuine by the university, and first came to light when student, Stefon Irvine, learned of its existence via an anonymous sexual assault support forum.
An image of the document has been obtained by local news site CBC News which reports how the victim is forbidden from having any contact with the other person involved in any incident, and that any matter must not be discussed with anyone other than a counsellor.
If students breach any of the rules they sign up to follow, CBC News - which spoke with a student who was made to sign the document after allegedly being assaulted in residence in September last year - reports how they are threatened with suspension or expulsion.
A day before the university released its statement on the controversy, president Gervan Fearon told a press conference that, despite the university’s best intentions, the contract was originally meant to “protect” victims from harassment, reports Winnipeg Free Press.
In its statement the following day, though, Brandon University said it “has been and remains significantly concerned” by the reported sexual assault on campus in September 2015, and added: “[We] used a Student Behavioural Contract, which we now recognise to be inappropriate in this case.
“We are reviewing the use of Student Behavioural Contracts under any circumstance and will no longer be using them in the case of sexual assault, sexual violence, or sexual harassment.”
Dr Corinne Mason, head of the university’s gender and women’s studies course, told CBC News the document was a “gag order” which was “not surprising given the culture of silencing victims on all Canadian university campuses.”
Since the controversy surfaced, Mr Irvine is one of the students to have started a campus group called We Believe Survivors. Speaking with CBC News, he lauded the student for being “strong enough to come forward” about the contract, which has led to “a means for change and discussion.”
The university has now highlighted it is currently introducing new policy to deal with the issue of sexual assault on campus, and confirmed: “A sexual violence, assault, and harassment advisory committee - with strong representation from students as well as faculty, staff, and community experts - has been in development, and its work is getting underway.
“With consultation across the university community - and taking into account new provincial legislation - the committee is tasked with producing appropriate new standalone policy and protocols.” The institution added how the work will be ready for additional consultation in September 2016.
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