East York campus among those addressing harassment

The president of the public college in East York says that Ontario’s two-dozen colleges will be helping students by integrating their approach to sexual harassment.

Ann Buller heads Centennial College — based in Scarborough, but operating a campus for communications programs on Carlaw Avenue in East York. She’s among the presidents who have agreed to create a province-wide campus sexual assault policy. Their decision comes after recent media reports like the one in the Toronto Star headlined “Canadian post-secondary schools failing sex assault victims.”

Buller said that Centennial and Ontario’s other public colleges already have general violence prevention policies covering sexual assault — but under different names.

“At Centennial, we have about seven different policies and procedures that cover off a range of things, from sexual harassment to actual sexual assault,” Buller said. “We’ve been using them for many, many years.”

Now, she explained, the goal is to devise a common approach to sexual assault across the province’s colleges.

“Having a policy and procedure with that actual terminology in it would make it easier for students, perhaps to find exactly what they are looking for,” she said.

In response to student complaints quoted in news reports about college system failures, Buller acknowledged that part of the challenge is ensuring that people who come forward with complaints about harassment feel respected and assisted in working through the complaint process.

“I think sometimes it happens in situations of date rape; it happens not exactly in the campus confine, so people are really confused on what to do.” In situations like that, she encourages students to go talk to any staff at the college, and those employees will direct them to the proper authorities.

For now, Buller said, Centennial is pulling together the best pieces of its various policies, and the administration hopes to have its own unified draft ready soon.