Photo by Kyle West

The McMaster Students Union and McMaster University are preparing to re-examine their policies and protocols on sexual violence in light of the recent Student Voices on Sexual Violence report released by the provincial government earlier this month.

The Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey was sent out last year and involved 160,000 students from over 40 Ontario post-secondary institutions outlining their experiences of sexual violence and harassment.  

According to the survey, three in five McMaster students disclosed at least one experience of sexual harassment.

Sixty-one per cent of McMaster students said they do not have knowledge of McMaster’s sexual violence supports and services.

A McMaster Daily News article responding to the report states that McMaster has provided sexual violence prevention and response training to more than 8,600 students, staff and faculty over the past year.

Arig al Shaibah, McMaster’s associate vice president (Equity and Inclusion), said the university’s sexual violence education team will begin planning a bystander intervention training program in April.

In response to the report, the university will also shortly be reviewing the McMaster’s sexual violence policy, which was created in 2017.

“We are just in the beginning processes of looking at the policy,” al Shaibah said. “We know the numbers that come through our offices are not necessarily indicative of the full picture, so periodically going out there and being able to anonymously get a good gauge of people’s experiences and perceptions is really important.”

Every year, the EIO releases a report highlighting statistics on disclosures of sexual violence and harassment.

However, al Shaibah said the EIO needs to make sure that definitions used to classify disclosures are standardized.

“We have just improved the way we are collecting and centralizing data,” al Shaibah said. “Moving forward, one of the things we are doing is trying to make sure that everyone in the intake office is using the same definition so that we can start to capture trend data over time.”

MSU vice president (Administration) Kristina Epifano will be revising the current “Workplace Anti-Violence, Harassment, and Sexual Assault Prevention Policy” in response to the survey.

“With these revisions, we will host some feedback sessions, inviting student-staff and volunteers to share some of the challenges they've experienced with policies in the past and recommendations they would like to see moving forward,” Epifano said in an email. “I believe it is important to adapt the policy to highlight different options and courses of action that a survivor can take during the process.”

The provincial report comes against the backdrop of multiple allegations of sexual assault within the MSU Maroons.

On March 29, Farah released a statement addressing the subject, promising a formal investigation.

Nevertheless, Farah states that she hasn’t “found actual reports, anonymous or otherwise, of sexual violence within the Maroons team this year.”

The statement also said Epifano will be standardizing an anonymous online reporting tool used for Marrons for all MSU volunteers.

Jocelyn Heaton, the coordinator of the MSU Women and Gender Equity Network, said the MSU’s steps in addressing sexual violence are helpful, but there remains a lot of work to be done.

“The fact that less than three quarters of students know that there are supports and services available is pretty harmful for people who experience sexual violence,” said Heaton. “Also, knowing that a lot of that group is going to receive a disclosure during their time at university and they're not going to know where to refer people to is harmful as well,” she said.

Heaton also mentioned that there has been no consultation thus far with services like WGEN when it comes to the Maroons incident and revising the MSU’s workplace sexual assault prevention policy.

“As the coordinator of a service, the only service specifically meant to address sexual violence, I was never once consulted or brought in to talk about that situation,” Heaton said. “Students have not been consulted on what the policy should look like.”


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Photo C/O Kyle West

McMaster University is currently taking its second employment equity census to evaluate the diversity of McMaster’s staff and faculty.

The voluntary census is open to all McMaster employees and identifies the representation of five target groups: women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities, Indigenous peoples and LGBTQA2S+ employees.

The census comes three years after the first census, which was taken in 2016 and produced the first employment equity report and led to the development of McMaster’s employment equity framework.

According to the report from the 2016 census, 43.07 per cent of all McMaster staff and faculty participated. Of that 43 per cent, only 2.12 per cent across the institution self-identified as part of the LGBTQA2S+ community.

In a number of high participation-rates groups, less than two per cent per cent identified as Aboriginal, 10.18 per cent indicated they were members of visible minority groups and less than four per cent indicated that they had a disability.

61.93 per cent identified as women.

According to the report, the representation of women was above representation in the overall Canadian labour force statistics, while internal representation of Indigenous individuals and individuals with disabilities fell below them.

The visible minority representation was far below external representation.

One recommendation from the first census was that McMaster form an employment equity implementation team to promote the employment equity framework.

Since 2017, May-Marie Duwai-Sowa, the university’s employment equity specialist, has been working closely with Arig al Shaibah, the associate vice president (Equity and Inclusion), to improve McMaster’s employment equity.

According to Duwai-Sowa, over a thousand faculty members, chairs and directors have undergone training for equitable hiring and recruitment practices. The EEIT will also run Indigenous cultural competency training for many McMaster employees on March 8.

One pilot project that has been implemented by the EEIT is a self-ID survey for interviews within certain faculties, where applicants were asked to identify their background.

“If you have candidates from diverse backgrounds that meet the requirements, there should be no reason why they should not make your long or short list,” Duwai-Sowa said. “The focus is still obviously hiring excellent candidates that meet the bar of excellence and meet the requirements that are in the posting.”

Duwai-Sowa also pointed to McMaster’s efforts to reach applicants from different backgrounds. For example, McMaster is ensuring its jobs are posted on Indigenous Link, a website to help Indigenous communities find employment.

“It is really about making sure our workforce is diverse now so we are meeting the needs of our students because our student population is also diverse,” Duwai-Sowa said.

One key recommendation from the 2016 report yet to be implemented is a systems-wide review of current hiring and retention practices and policies. This is expected to begin soon and be released by the end of 2019.

Noticeably absent from both the 2016 report and the upcoming 2019 employment census is race-specific data.

Many major Canadian universities still do not collect data on the race of their faculty and students.

“We are currently working on incorporating disaggregate breakdowns of radicalized groups and Indigenous peoples for both the employee census, applicant self- ID survey and student self ID survey, which is planned to be initiated this fall,” said Duwai-Sowa.

The equity and inclusion team is hoping to release the results of this year’s employment census in the upcoming fall.


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Preethi Anbalagan, vice president (Administration)

Completed 72 per cent of year plan

In Preethi Anbalagan’s year plan, she listed seven objectives she wished to achieve during her term as vice president (Administration). The majority of her year plan focused on supporting her staff, whether that be part-time managers, associate vice presidents or Student Representative Assembly members.

Anbalagan achieved the majority of the points within her first objective to strengthen training delivery. Anbalagan was not able to develop a formalized Safe(r) Training model with campus models due to the number of external organizations involved with this process.

To support the SRA, Anbalagan utilized the associate vice president (Internal Governance) to facilitate caucus leader meetings. Although she was able to cluster platform points and other aspects of her SRA support objectives, Anbalagan did not create a resource library for the SRA or offer skill-building workshops.

Anbalagan was able to hold one-on-one meetings with her part-time managers and create feedback mechanisms, among other achievements, but did not create a collaborative space for part-time managers, which would mainly entail renovating the current space in the MSU office for part-time managers. According to Anbalagan, this was simply due to the timeline for renovations.

Anbalagan also worked with associate vice presidents to settle them into their roles, as this was the first year their positions existed.

Anbalagan also completed the majority of hiring for the next term, with only three positions remaining open. She recommends that the incoming vice president (Administration) prepare for hiring in September.

Anbalagan also attempted to improve the human resources aspects of the MSU. She has worked with the operations coordinator to create a equity statement and an workplace accommodations policy, which is still being researched.

The last major aspect of Anbalagan’s year plan involved her role in planning Welcome Week. Anbalagan was able to highlight governance and services during Welcome Week, introduce new programming and bystander training. She was not able to successfully coordinate with the Society of Off-Campus Students, however, and instead added Community Engagement to Welcome Week’s strategic themes to ensure students interact with the city of Hamilton and better connect off-campus students to the university.

Ryan Deshpande, vice president (Education)

Completed 91 per cent of year plan

Deshpande had a particularly ambitious year plan, with 29 objectives. These objectives range from improving marketing to implementing policies in the MSU to advocating on the federal level.

Deshpande’s first four objectives involved maintaining the quality and outreach of MSU policymaking. To improve their outreach, he and his education team created a separate “MSU Advocacy” Facebook page, which they updated throughout the year. Deshpande also formally trained his education team this year, in addition offering a short training during the part-time manager and SRA member training.

Deshpande ran two policy conferences this year, which produced six different policy papers. He also worked with the new education committees to make sure they functioned effectively this year and reintroduced the sustainability committee, who have made strides to add compost bins around campus. Deshpande also conducted a review of McMaster’s health services.

Deshpande attempted to improve the efficacy of the Academic Affairs Council, which is comprised of members from every faculty society to discuss their needs, but due to low turnout, this did not go as he planned.

Although food security was a big point on his year plan, Deshpande did not pursue it as strongly due to McMaster Hospitality Services working with other student groups to make campus food more accessible.

Deshpande did make strides with respect to supporting Indigenous students on campus, by actively working with Indigenous groups such as the Cooperative of Indigenous Students and Alumni.

Deshpande also made sure to submit budget recommendations to both the university and the municipal government, thus ensuring students’ needs may be reflected in their budget discussions.

Deshpande worked with Chukky Ibe, MSU (president) and the Student Community Support Network coordinator to create neighbourhood assistance programs and make students more aware of bylaws. Deshpande did not complete the landlord wiki project this year, but states that the incoming vice president (Education) simply has to create the website.

Deshpande also regularly advocated on the municipal level and fulfilled nearly all aspects of his year plan regarding municipal affairs. He has worked with the Ontario University Student Alliance to ensure students vote in upcoming elections and has created a plan for his successor.

When it comes to federal and provincial advocacy, Deshpande took an active role, whether that be by advocating with OUSA to create policy papers, pushing a mental health strategy, attending the Canadian Alliance of Students conference or lobbying with Adovcan.

Daniel “Tuba” D’Souza, vice president (Finance)

Completed 92 per cent of year plan

D’Souza’s year plan largely focused on creating new forms forms of revenue for the student union and re-evaluating aspects of its business units.

D’Souza successfully added a cafe to the TwelvEighty space, although this project was pushed back from its initial open date multiple times. With that said, the Grind, the café he opened, has consistently turned a profit since its opening. D’Souza also wanted to add online ordering to TwelvEighty, but had to halt this project as it proved to be too expensive.

D’Souza also reassessed TwelvEighty club nights, which were plagued with low attendance in years past. D’Souza cancelled poorly-attended club nights to free up the space for other rentals. His efforts yielded a 40 per cent decrease in overall costs and 10 per cent increase in attendance per club night. D’Souza has also begun expanding the number of premium events offered to students.

In addition, D’Souza focused on creating more experiential opportunities for McMaster students. The MSU now has a seat on the Hire@McMaster campaign, a campaign set to launch at the end of April to encourage the hiring of McMaster graduates. The MSU will ensure that this campaign is connected to MSU clubs to broadcast employment opportunities to as many students as possible.

D’Souza also planned on creating a sponsorship and fundraising package to be given out to any MSU service undertaking fundraisers to support plans. This was delegated to the associate vice president (Finance) and was set to begin in the first semester, but is still being completed.

D’Souza also held workshops for club leaders to teach student leaders how to effectively budget and estimate costs associated with events, and these will continue in the coming years.

D’Souza expanded the MSU budget fair to have multiple locations on campus in order to increase transparency concerning the MSU’s budget spending.

D’Souza stopped his plans on creating a discount card for MSU members after having discussions with the advertising wing of the MSU and decided there would be a better way of offering students discounts and deals not already offered in the MSU Almanac or MSU Student Survival Guide.

D’Souza is also having ongoing conversations with the Graduate Student Association as he evaluates the MSU Child Care Center. He is currently exploring the possibility of creating a child care bursary with the GSA.

D’Souza also helped implement the Presto U-Pass, converted Frost Week to Life After Mac and completed a wage review for all part-time employees.

Chukky Ibe, President

Completed 72 per cent of yearplan

Ibe had 12 objectives in his year plan, each of which had its own set of projects, many of which he achieved during his term.

Of the projects under his first objective to “Open Up the MSU”, Ibe was only able to expand the Student Life Enhancement Fund to include the ideas of previous MSU presidential candidates and host MSU open houses. The majority of the projects stalled because they were not a priority or they lacked the correct infrastructure to complete.

With respect to accessibility, Ibe has worked with the MacPherson Institute as they research best practices for professors and has had meetings with the President’s Advisory Committee to Building an Inclusive Community to discuss the creation of an accessibility policy.

In order to reduce campus waste, Ibe worked with campus partners to run electronic waste drives. He was not, however, able to expand the green container program, due to a miscommunication with McMaster Hospitality Services.

Ibe has also worked with the MSU general manager to optimize student technology by having conversations with University Technology Services. He also helped launch TechLit Week, an awareness campaign meant to teach students how to effectively use and dispose of technology.

To improve the off-campus experience, Ibe helped create a off-campus community advisor program and restructured SCSN to improve its outreach. It should be noted that this program was not popular this year, but McMaster Residence Life plans to rectify this by reducing the fee associated with it.

To promote better governance, Ibe launched the McMaster People Project, a project aimed at promoting students to run for an SRA position.

To continue to support student communities, Ibe also introduced an MSU clubs loan portal to decrease the financial burden of clubs executives. He also worked with the clubs administrator to hold a recognition night for MSU clubs.

Ibe also launched his Caring Communities Network project this year and hopes to see it continued under new leadership in the coming weeks.

He has also worked with campus partners and OUSA to lower the cost of textbooks and increase the number of open education resources available to students.

Ibe has also made strides to address food security by working with the Mac Bread Bin director to create a grocery delivery system, which he hopes will be operational in the coming months.

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A new report on women’s leadership in the Hamilton and Halton region reveals that women are underrepresented in senior leadership positions across a variety of sectors.

The report, co-authored by Karen Bird, associate professor of political science at McMaster, and Samantha Jackson, PhD candidate, looks at 2,565 women in senior leadership positions across nine different sectors. It finds that women are underrepresented in all sectors, except for the voluntary sector.

“It is really important to have these numbers, because we think it is 2014 and we have achieved equality, and there’s kind of a movement or buzz that there’s no need for feminism anymore,” said Bird. “I think our numbers should cause us to think about that, [and] reflect on that.”

Women are especially underrepresented in senior leadership positions in the corporate sector, with an average of 17.8 percent of women in top positions, and the private legal sector with a dismal 24.2 percent representation.

“There are barriers in private law firms to women achieving partnership. Even though women enter into the law firms, at the entry level, in reasonable numbers, […] they are not making it to partner,” said Bird. “It stood out as a very stark lack of inclusiveness of women.”

Women make up more than half of law school graduates, yet are still underrepresented in senior positions in the legal sector. Judiciary positions are the most representative at 40.4 percent, followed by 33.3 percent of Crown and Deputy Crown positions.

“There’s this very kind of popular argument that women need to lean in, we want to say that organizations need to lean in too,” said Bird.

These findings are consistent with a similar study of women’s leadership in the greater Toronto area completed at the University of Toronto in 2012.

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One sector where the Hamilton and Halton region fares better than the GTA is in the voluntary sector. In non-profit organizations, women make up an average of 51 percent of senior leadership.

“Some people have said, ‘oh well that’s exactly what you’d expect, of course women are choosing to be in the voluntary sector and social services, that’s what they want to do. They don’t want to be heads of corporations,’” said Bird. “That’s problematic to think ‘this is where women want to be.’ I think women want to be in all of these sectors.”

The report also found that at universities, women make up only 28.6 percent of senior leadership positions.

Similar representations of women in senior positions are found at McMaster. According to a study released in January 2014 by Charlotte Yates, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, only two of the eight Deans at McMaster are women, and over the last five years only 20 percent of Chairs and Directors of Academic units have been women faculty. Additionally, there has only been one female President and two female Provosts in McMaster’s 127-year history.

However, Yates’ report found that many of McMaster’s faculties are experiencing positive trends in the percentage of women in tenure-track positions, including the School of Business and the Faculty of Engineering. Women’s leadership is especially representative in the Faculty of Health Sciences, which has traditionally had a consistent record of both hiring and promoting women.

Bird is also working to create positive trends in women’s leadership at McMaster. As a part of the Academic Women’s Mentorship Ad Hoc Committee, she has helped to plan a series of lectures from women in leadership positions across multiple disciplines. The lecture series will highlight women’s success stories as well as barriers faced, and strategies to overcome those barriers. The series will begin Nov. 6 and is open to students from any faculty.

The report on women’s leadership has been made possible by contributions from McMaster’s Faculty of Social Science, the YWCA Hamilton, and Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. The Academic Women’s Mentorship lecture series is funded by a grant from President Patrick Deane’s Forward with Integrity initiative.

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