Sexual Assault Centre in Final Stages of Development

Centre “Days Away” from Opening

Source: Survey of Unwanted Sexual Experience Among University of Alberta Students. Infographic Jayde Norström

If all goes according to plan, Concordia will have a Sexual Assault Resource Centre opening within the next few weeks.

Indeed, it won’t just be moving onto another step of the plan, which has been in the works for the past year, but actually have brick-and-mortar offices that would be ready and staffed to welcome students that need their resources and support.

With a furnished office and volunteers at the ready, all they need before opening their doors is to hire a coordinator.

“We’re days away,” said Concordia Counselling and Development Director Howard Magonet.

“We have a preferred candidate, and we’re in the final throes of having that candidate go through the process of human relations and do all that’s necessary, so we’re very close,” Magonet said, later adding that contacting references and, of course, the candidate accepting their job offer for the full-time social worker position would be the final step in the process.

The full-time coordinator’s position will entail working with student volunteers to create education, counselling and referral services, and will also have access to the counsellors and psychologists currently working in Counselling and Development.

An advisory committee representing different facets of the university was called to review the resumés of those who applied and sat in on the top candidates’ interviews.

The committee was comprised of Magonet, Dean of Students Andrew Woodall, director of Health Services Melanie Drew, Centre for Gender Advocacy Administrative Coordinator Julie Michaud and Concordia Student Union President Melissa Kate Wheeler.

Magonet says the process of finding a coordinator went smoothly, as the committee found someone to whom they’d like to offer the position the first time they posted the job.

A Long Time Coming

Last year, the Centre for Gender Advocacy started a petition asking the university to provide permanent space for a sexual assault centre. It received over 1,000 signatures. The Concordia Student Union and Graduate Students’ Association also put their support behind the initiative.

In October 2012, the Women’s Studies Student Association joined in, stating their support for the Centre for Gender Advocacy’s initiative in a letter to The Link.

“The biggest obstacle at this point is a lack of funding from the university for sexual assault services, a space and someone to coordinate,” the programming and campaigns coordinator at the Centre for Gender Advocacy, Bianca Mugyenyi, told The Link in a March 2012 interview when the centre had just begun circulating the petition.

“We really need a section out of the [university’s policies on how to deal with sexual crimes on campus] that is directly related to sexual assault, and clear avenues for where people can go to get advocacy and counselling,” said Mugyenyi.

Coordinating a New Centre

Magonet is enthusiastic, both about the centre opening its doors and about the committee’s preferred candidate, who will most likely become the centre’s coordinator.

For confidentiality reasons, the candidate’s name and specific experience could not be disclosed, but Michaud, who was present during the interview process, spoke highly of the candidate, a former Concordia student.

“There’s going to be a very steep learning curve, they’re going to meet with the people and start the Centre; there’ll be a whole slew of services that we’ll hope to offer in the near future,” said Magonet. “Volunteers, peer mentors, accompaniments, referrals, obviously any type of outreach that’s required, obviously educational, you name it.”

Michaud, the Centre for Gender Advocacy’s representative who sat in on candidate interviews, says the candidate they hope to hire will bring the experience necessary to take on such a project.

“I think the candidate is really excellent, they bring a wealth on knowledge and experience that I’m excited about, that we’re going to have somebody with such a broad background and a kind of intersectional understanding of the different issues that sexual assault survivors can be facing,” she said.

Learning not only policies but the inner workings for a large university can be a challenge, said Magonet, but he assured that he is planning ahead to make sure the candidate will be well versed within their first few weeks on the job.

“I have a whole list of people for them to meet, I have a whole slew of articles and resources for them to hit the ground running,” said Magonet. “Then they’ll start working. They have to learn what Concordia is, what services they offer, what it is that they’re going to do.”

Michaud also acknowledged the challenge of starting a project with no precedent at Concordia, but added that the coordinator will have support from the Concordia community.

“We’re really committed and doing what we can [to] help them in every way that we can, and our volunteers are wanting to help in any way they can as well,” said Michaud.