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UBC denies mishandling sex assault complaints in response to human rights cases

Former University of British Columbia students Glynnis Kirchmeier and Caitlin Cunningham, back, hold a news conference at the university in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday, November 22, 2015 regarding the university's response to alleged sexual assaults by a former student who was expelled recently. The University of British Columbia has denied mishandling sexual assault reports in documents filed with the province's human rights tribunal.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
November 21, 2017 - 7:00 AM

VANCOUVER - The University of British Columbia has denied mishandling sexual assault reports in documents filed with the province's human rights tribunal.

History graduate Glynnis Kirchmeier and engineering student Stephanie Hale have launched separate complaints with the tribunal over the school's response to sexual violence.

The university recently filed separate responses to the complaints.

"The respondent denies that it discriminated as alleged in the complaint or at all," the university says in its response to Kirchmeier's allegations.

Kirchmeier's complaint says students reported misconduct by a PhD candidate over a period of years, starting in 2012, but the university failed to take action until he was expelled in November 2015.

But UBC says while a student raised concerns about violence at a graduate residence in 2012, the PhD candidate was not named, and alleged sexual assaults in 2013 were not reported at the time.

The man accused of the assaults is not named as a respondent and has not been criminally charged. The Canadian Press has not been able to reach him for comment. None of the allegations have been proven.

The university says Kirchmeier told Monica Kay, a director in the equity and inclusion office, in February 2014 that she had seen the man being "aggressively flirtatious." Kay asked Kirchmeier if she would file a formal complaint but Kirchmeier did not do so, it says.

Despite the lack of a complaint, the school arranged a harassment workshop, which the man attended, the UBC response says.

A few months later, the man allegedly sexually assaulted a former UBC student. The university advised the woman to contact campus security, which obtained her report along with that of another woman, it says.

In July 2014, Kirchmeier and others met with the history department head and Kay. One woman alleged the PhD student had assaulted her, and Kay urged the women to pursue complaints, the university says.

Kay said words to the effect that if the women told others about the allegations, it would be like saying there was a "snake in the grass and turning out the lights," the school says. She intended to convey the fear that spreading unsubstantiated claims would cause, UBC says.

The woman who alleged she had been assaulted eventually filed a formal complaint and a hearing was held in October 2015 regarding her allegations and those of two other women, the university says. The man was expelled the next month.

Kirchmeier said she was frustrated to see her allegations reduced to "aggressive flirting," as she witnessed non-consensual touching. She said she had been trying to file a formal complaint all along, but Kay told her she couldn't since she was only a witness.

"It's not my problem to know what the magic words are to make the bureaucracy work for me," she said in an interview.

UBC declined comment.

An independent review last year concluded staff acted in good faith, but human error and murky policies led to delays.

The school has since passed a new sexual misconduct policy that includes a centralized prevention and response office and a director of investigations.

In response to Hale's complaint, the university says large portions should be dismissed because the events fall outside the tribunal's time limit for filing.

Hale, 23, alleges a student sexually assaulted, choked and slapped her in 2013. The man has denied the allegations in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Hale says she told residence staff and UBC counsellors in 2013 and her dean in 2015, but none told her that a formal process existed to deal with sexual assaults. In 2016, she learned of the process and filed a report.

The Canadian Press does not identify sexual assault complainants without their active consent, which Hale has provided.

The university says the only allegations the tribunal should accept are those from February 2016, when she filed the report, to March 2017, when the accused student was cleared of wrongdoing.

Hale said she is upset the university is not taking responsibility for events before 2016. She went on medical leave in 2015, has not returned to school and is fundraising to pay her legal bills.

"It's for the daughters that I don't have yet. I don't want them to feel that they're the generation that has to fight for this. I want to already have it in place for them."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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