News

Take Back The Night Ottawa 2016

Take Back the Night is an important night for many survivors of sexual violence and gender based violence. Every year, Women’s Event Network collaborates to create space for folks to reclaim the streets and take a stand against rape culture. Victoria Christie, a journalism student at Carleton University helped capture TBTN Ottawa 2016. 

 

Sexual Violence and STEM disciplines on Canadian university campuses.

This blog post was shared with SASC Ottawa with the intentions of publishing on our website. We were given permission by the author to repost this information without disclosing personal information, but rather with the intent of educating the broader community about the nuances of sexual violence  on campuses and within the STEM field.


For graduate students in STEM, the power that supervisors hold over our lives is tremendous. In addition to financial support, supervisors control access to equipment that is necessary for our research, provide references that affects our career trajectories, and are often the only ones at the university that can provide any technical expertise on our research. Reporting sexual violence committed by a supervisor, committee member, member of the faculty or research staff is not worth the financial, research or career costs. Universities provide more protections to undergraduate student and tenured faculty/research staff than they do to graduate students, especially in STEM. Furthermore, cutting off ties with a research supervisor/collaborator, even another faculty member can result in reduction/removal of research funding and living stipends, delay the completion of a thesis, prevent publication of thesis research (which is the most important measure for hiring in STEM) and restrict access to future research collaborations and funding, especially if the perpetrator is a prominent and influential researcher. In most cases, tenured faculty/prominent campusesresearchers that perpetrate sexual violence towards others never face consequences in their home institutions, even if they are found guilty of sexual harassment, violence and misconduct.Sexual harassment must not be kept under wraps  Here is an example of the costs of reporting sexual violence in STEM and the dismal outcomes.Gender discrimination in physics and astronomy: Graduate student experiences of sexism and gender microaggressions Here,  Retention Study on Work and Life Balance here, and Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Experiences of Academic Medical Faculty here are studies which show the extent of the problem in different STEM sub-disciplines.

The situation doesn’t get any better for female tenured faculty. Even if female researchers make it through the rampant sexism (overt and covert) to become tenured faculty, they continue to be left out of important administrative meetings and career advancing opportunities. One horrifying example of this was the presence of a “d*ck” club at a STEM department in a major Canadian university where male professors met for years to help refine research ideas, peer review major grant applications and form collaborations, explicitly excluding female faculty (in late 2000s!!!!). In fact, neither the female faculty nor the department administration knew about the existence of this club until a female faculty accidentally stumbled upon it. Many female tenured faculty that I know have talked about leaving their home departments and institutions because of sexism, harassment and sexual violence. Hope Jahren, a tenured geochemist and geobiologist writes about her experiences with sexual harassment/violence in STEM  here and here. 

One specific way in which Canadian universities are failing their STEM students and researchers is by having a lack of awareness, training and policy in dealing with sexual violence at off-campus field sites. In many STEM sub-disciplines, researchers will spend days, weeks and months at remote/isolated off-campus locations, often in international locations or places where there are no local populations (i.e. high Arctic/Antarctic/middle of forests) or interactions with local populations are limited (research field stations). At my home university, we have to identify, prevent and be trained in multi-day training workshops to deal with accidents and physical injuries during field work. However, there is no equivalent training  for identifying and preventing sexual violence at field sites. A recent survey of 666 field scientists of their experiences with sexual violence at field sites found 63% of women and 39% of men reported receiving inappropriate sexual comments and 26% of women and 6% of men reported experiencing sexual assaults. 50% of sexual harassment and assault were committed by superiors in the hierarchy, with women more likely to experience sexual violence from their superiors and men more likely to experience sexual violence from their peers. Sexual violence at field sites is especially problematic because the isolation means that the victim cannot escape their perpetrator after experiencing sexual violence. Reporting sexual violence without finishing an experiment or collecting the data required can result in at best, delaying thesis or research completion by many years, to loss of reputation and credibility (especially if the perpetrator is a tenured faculty member/well known research scientist/ field site administrator) which can destroy the victim’s career (one that they may have worked towards for decades). Additionally, if field research is being conducted in a different country, sexual violence may not be defined, recognized or prosecuted legally in a similar way as in Canada. It would be great if a provincial or national policy requiring universities to protect their students against sexual violence also extended this responsibility to off campus sites as well (with severe financial penalties for institutions that fail to do so). At the very least, training such as bystander prevention and Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act (EAAA )should be mandatory for everyone conducting field research just like first aid and physical safety training currently is implemented.

 

 

Training Ministry of Labour Inspectors

MinLThis week SASC Ottawa had the privilege of training inspectors from the Ontario Ministry of Labour on the connections of workplace sexual harassment and anti-oppression frameworks of practice.

The team of inspectors were an engaged group! Ontario’s Sexual Violence and Harassment Legislation becomes law September 8, 2016 (Read more at The Star.com).

Below you’ll find an excerpt from the Occupational Health & Safety Act in reference to workplace and sexual harassment.

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OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT

(1)  The definition of “workplace harassment” in subsection 1 (1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act is repealed and the following substituted:

“workplace harassment” means,

(a)  engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, or

(b)  workplace sexual harassment; (“harcèlement au travail”)

(2)  Subsection 1 (1) of the Act is amended by adding the following definition:

“workplace sexual harassment” means,

(a)  engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, where the course of comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, or

(b)  making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the worker and the person knows or ought reasonably to know that the solicitation or advance is unwelcome; (“harcèlement sexuel au travail”)

(3)  Section 1 of the Act is amended by adding the following subsection:

Workplace harassment

(4)  A reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the workplace is not workplace harassment. 

2.  (1)  Subsection 32.0.6 (1) of the Act is repealed and the following substituted:

Program, harassment

(1)  An employer shall, in consultation with the committee or a health and safety representative, if any, develop and maintain a written program to implement the policy with respect to workplace harassment required under clause 32.0.1 (1) (b).

(2)  Clauses 32.0.6 (2) (b) and (c) of the Act are repealed and the following substituted:

(b)  include measures and procedures for workers to report incidents of workplace harassment to a person other than the employer or supervisor, if the employer or supervisor is the alleged harasser;

(c)  set out how incidents or complaints of workplace harassment will be investigated and dealt with;

(d)  set out how information obtained about an incident or complaint of workplace harassment, including identifying information about any individuals involved, will not be disclosed unless the disclosure is necessary for the purposes of investigating or taking corrective action with respect to the incident or complaint, or is otherwise required by law;

(e)  set out how a worker who has allegedly experienced workplace harassment and the alleged harasser, if he or she is a worker of the employer, will be informed of the results of the investigation and of any corrective action that has been taken or that will be taken as a result of the investigation; and

(f)  include any prescribed elements.