Buckets of Data

May 7, 1998

SFU News: May 7, 1998: New harassment policy

Filed under: Marsden,Uncategorized — bucketsdata @ 4:12 pm

http://www.sfu.ca/mediapr/sfnews/1998/May7/office.html

May 7, 1997 * Vol . 12, No. 1

HARASSMENT RESOLUTION OFFICE:

New office, new policy are rebuilding confidence

The first wave of harassment resolution advisers has begun training, and more will be recruited from the campus community in the fall, says Michele Medlicott, coordinator of Simon Fraser University’s harassment resolution office.

Under SFU’s new harassment policy, which took effect March 1, up to 50 advisers can be appointed from faculty, staff and student ranks to act as initial contacts for anyone seeking information on the policy and its procedures, or other related campus services. So far, 22 people have volunteered for the job.

“Advisers are a way of extending this office out into the campus community, because we can’t be everywhere at the same time,” explains Medlicott. “On the other hand, we’re not suggesting that advisers take on major resolution projects. That’s what this office is here to do.”

Advisers get eight hours of training, which includes background on the harassment policy and human rights, listening and conflict resolution skills, and how to recognize and deal with trauma and anger. They also need to know when to refer a person to the harassment resolution office.

“The adviser is not a counsellor,” stresses Marg Corden, who as harassment resolution officer, is the other half of the two-person harassment resolution office team. “We don’t want advisers to be seeing the same person over and over again. They need to be aware of their level of expertise when handling situations, and when to call us to take over.”

Most important, stresses Corden, advisers are not advocates. “They’re not there to take someone’s side and push the case forward,” she says. “They’re there as neutral listeners and referrals. That’s a hard thing to do sometimes if someone is distressed.”

The policy does allow for advisers to serve as support people, if asked by the harassment resolution coordinator. But Medlicott would prefer to keep the two roles separate. “If we confuse advisers with the possibility of support, we may get results we don’t want,” she says. Instead, she plans to form another pool of volunteers. “The job description will be quite different,” she says. “These people will be available after hours to provide the ongoing psychological support that a person needs when they’re going around in circles trying to understand what’s happened to them.”

The strictly neutral role of the harassment resolution office is one major change over SFU’s previous harassment policy. “When people come to us,” says Corden, “they’re in charge of what happens. They don’t have to file a complaint. They can come for advice or consultation. ”

And that’s what many people have been doing. Since moving to a more visible location overlooking Convocation mall in December, the office has handled 13 mediation interventions and assisted in 40 cases where the people dealt with the situation themselves. It’s a big increase over previous semesters, but it doesn’t mean harassment is on the rise, stresses Corden.

“I think there was a lack of confidence in this office, mainly due to the Donnelly/Marsden case and the way it was handled by the press,” she says. “Now people are feeling more confident about phoning or dropping in.”

As for adviser recruitment, Medlicott and Corden are hoping that more volunteers will step forward, particularly from the departments and faculties that, so far, aren’t represented, such as business and education. But they’re also aware that it will take time for the word to spread. “We realize the impact of what’s been happening in the past year,” says Corden. “We have to build trust, so we’re taking it slowly. And we’re hoping that these 22 people will be ambassadors and tell people that this is something worthwhile to get involved in.”

A complete list of the 22 advisers is available on the Web at: http://www.sfu.ca/harassment-policy-office/advlist.htm. To contact the harassment resolution office, drop by AQ 3045, or call 291-3015.

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