VANCOUVER — Mediation is set to begin Monday between the University of British Columbia and a former student who filed a human-rights complaint alleging the school discriminated in handling a number of reports of sexual assault and harassment.
Glynnis Kirchmeier filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal in March. She said the school didn't accept and act on numerous complaints about a male PhD student over long periods of time, resulting in more women becoming the victims of sexual violence.
None of the allegations have been proven. Kirchmeier said she filed the complaint both as an individual and on behalf of anyone who has alleged sexual assault, sexual harassment or sex discrimination to the university.
"I filed the human-rights complaint because I felt that the university's internal process for handling sexual misconduct reports was just so fundamentally broken that it was not useful any longer to stay within the system," Kirchmeier said in an interview.
The real issue, she said, is equal access to education, because women who report sexual misconduct often end up leaving the university.
Sexual violence at Canadian universities has received growing attention recently, and Kirchmeier is not the only person alleging a school's response violates human rights.
A York University graduate student has also launched a human-rights complaint, alleging the school’s sexual assault policy discriminates against women.
Earlier this year, the B.C. government introduced legislation requiring post-secondary institutions to create sexual misconduct policies.
UBC has committed to creating a standalone sexual assault policy, but the issue continues to loom over the university.
An expert panel tasked with studying the school's approach to sexual assaults delivered its findings to the president's office in June, but the critical report wasn't made public until September.
Some panel members expressed their frustration at the lack of communication.
Kirchmeier has developed 44 recommendations for how the university could better respond to complaints of sexual misconduct, including changes to policy and training.
"My asks are so broad because the problem is multifaceted. But it's not something that's too hard to do," she said.
Kirchmeier is feeling a lot of anticipation and some nervousness about the mediation, which will be held behind closed doors. But she said she's prepared to follow through with the case, no matter the outcome of Monday's meeting.
"I'm going in with hope that the university will come to the table in good faith,"she said. "But my asks are really about institutional restructuring, so I'm prepared to continue all the way."
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal's website says that if parties cannot resolve their issues through mediation, the responding party can reply to the complaint and apply to dismiss it without a hearing.
The tribunal says it holds a hearing if the parties cannot resolve a complaint and it is not dismissed.