Clancy McDaniel discusses upcoming changes to policies
Salome Barker and Evan Davison-Kotler interviewed Clancy MacDaniel on October 23, 2018.
SB: As someone who works with the Students’ Union, how would you like to see the U move forwards with helping students after the recent uproar over sexual violence on campus?
CM: I think the whole purpose of our organization is to support students and be the best voice for them that we can, because we do have multiple avenues that we can hopefully press our influence.
I think that was laid out well in the recommendations that we put out because you can kind of see when you read them that they’re targeted at different audiences because we want to reach as many stakeholders with this issue, bringing forwards that student voice. The best way we can support students is to listen to them; we’ve had a lot of really amazing momentum on campus, it’s been absolutely incredible. We’ve seen multiple groups come forwards in solidarity with recommendations that mirror each other in a lot of really wonderful ways, and really complement each other. Bringing that perspective to the conversations that we’re having and continuing to apply pressure - making sure that this momentum is kept up and continuing to offer students spaces to be involved at the same time and help represent themselves is also important. For example, we had our open forum on the weekend - that’s only the beginning. We wanted that to be an initial step to get student feedback, but as we continue, we don’t want it to be like, “We spoke to students once, we’re going to close the door and go on our own.”.
Especially in recognition of the wonderful efforts put forwards by students and their bravery in coming forwards, we want to make sure that it’s a student led process throughout the whole thing.
EDK: What do you hope to achieve in your capacity as VP External with your outreach to CASA and Students NS?
CD: One thing that we’re really working on with Students NS, and this was mentioned in our recommendations, is - currently, the province, through the department responsible for post-secondary education - they’re trying to develop guidelines for what should be included in sexual violence policies, which is obviously very topical. They’ve hired a consultant, so my role as both a delegate to Students NS but also as the Chair, is to make sure the guidelines that are developed are survivor-centric, are trauma-informed, and have a student voice at the table. We sit on a sexual violence prevention committee that’s very similar to the one at the school, but it’s at the provincial level. We are one of 33 stakeholders at the table - it’s very large - so it’s very important that the decision-making around what is included in these guidelines and what is not is reflective of the needs that students have brought forwards.
My role has been trying to do as much literature review as possible; there are a lot of great organizations that have published what survivor-centric asks would look like. So that’s around confidentiality; that’s around making sure the survivor has full-reigns of the reporting process - and that they can choose to bow out at any time or return at any time; making sure that there are clauses that state if a survivor was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, that it doesn’t change what the conduct would be. Bringing all of this to the provincial level would not only help the policy at StFX, because it would be a standard that we would be expected to reach, but also be a standard that other universities in the province would be expected to reach as well. The reason we have a sexual violence policy is through an agreement called the Memorandum of Understanding between the province and the universities. In 2015, the current one (which is expiring), stated that all universities had to have sexual violence policies - if they didn’t have a policy, it meant that the province could pull their funding. So, we put out one in that timeframe, but there are other universities that don’t even have one, period. The government has never repealed funding for that, it’s never been that serious, so another thing we’re advocating for is better accountability to make sure “Well, if we have those guidelines in place, if we’re saying we need to do this, lets hold other institutions accountable for doing that.”
Within the VP External portfolio itself, getting those guidelines set, making sure they’re comprehensive and survivor-centric, and then that there’s accountability and follow-up to make sure that institutions are actually implementing those standards, that would be my number one goal within this role.
SB: That actually partially answers my next question - what would you like to see changed about the sexual assault policy at StFX?
CD: Absolutely, well, I think the more we get into the review process and go line by line through the policy, the more we’re going to find that can be amended. Obviously, the knowledge that we have from the Students’ Union, we’re 21 and 22 years old, we can do a lot of literature review. I think it’s going to be really important to look towards our community partners who are experts, and I really hope that folks such as the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre are able to play a role. I know that they sit on the school’s sexualized violence prevention committee, I think those are folks who will be really helpful.
Overall, I’m really looking forwards to a very holistic, comprehensive review, not only at the policy but also at how it’s applied. For example, you could have a policy that gets graded A+, you tick all the boxes, but if it’s not applied appropriately, and it’s not followed through on, then there’s still room for the survivor to not receive the outcome they’re looking for. So, I think that’s also a piece that’s important to the puzzle as well.
SB: Last year on campus, when the sexual assault case happened in November and it was very public, students felt as though they really got somewhere. There were forums held, it felt like we were moving forwards. Now with this, it feels like students have been betrayed in a sense, they don’t know who they can trust given the amount of back and forth. Do you have any words of comfort to offer students who are feeling, thinking, “Can I trust my university,” given it feels like we’ve taken one step forwards and five steps back?
CD: I can say that The Union is dedicated to continuing to press on this issue throughout the year. It’s not a reactionary topic, it’s something that we want to see as a priority, not even this year, but continually. For example, our first recommendation is that we create a subcommittee, which is something that we did towards the end of August, between Rebecca, Tiffany and I; we’re looking to see that become a permanent part of our organization. The reality is we’re looking to make change, it’s something that is going to take a while. There are some very immediate steps that are very obvious, and I thank students for bringing that to the forefront, because it does take a lot of bravery.
I want students to know they’re not alone, and we will be continuing to press forwards with this. Regardless of how many forums happen, we want to be on the ground getting at it - working towards some immediate, mid-term and long-term solutions on campus.