BU board of governors approves violence policy


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Brandon University officials voted to adopt a new Violence Prevention Policy during Saturday’s board of governors meeting, hoping to update the administration’s approach to handling workplace conflict.

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Brandon University officials voted to adopt a new Violence Prevention Policy during Saturday’s board of governors meeting, hoping to update the administration’s approach to handling workplace conflict.

During Saturday’s meeting, BU vice-president (administration and finance) Scott Lamont reminded the board that issues related to harassment and discrimination, sexual violence and workplace violence all used to be covered under the school’s old Respectful Environment Policy.

“At one point, there was some concern that including all of those things together made a pretty complicated and very long document,” Lamont said over Zoom.

“So if you happened to be in a crisis or dealing with a situation, you had to wade through a lot of material to find out what you needed for your particular issue.”

To simplify this process, workplace violence is now outlined in its own policy, while harassment and discrimination and sexualized violence are covered in separate, complementary documents.

Lamont also mentioned that the new Violence Prevention Policy is designed to bring BU in line with a newer version of province’s Workplace Safety and Health Act, which outlines updated guidelines on how to identify and respond to incidents that appear to be violent in nature.*

Looking at the university’s document itself, the scope of this policy applies to “all members of the BU community.”

This includes employees, students, contractors, volunteers, visitors and individuals who are connected to university initiatives more broadly.

While this policy is meant to address violence in the workplace, the document outlines how incidents that take place outside of school grounds or normal working hours, like during a campus-related social function, could also apply.

Inappropriate social media conduct, or improper communication through other electronic means, may also constitute a breach under this new policy.

While the specific application of this new policy (and its procedures) will be voted on at a future date, the document states that this framework will operate under the “laws of nature justice” when a complaint is filed.

“This means that the respondent has the right to know the allegations against them in full detail, and the right to reply to these allegations,” the document reads.

“Remedial or punitive actions resulting from the implementation of this policy will be based on evidence, and that evidence will be shared with both the complainant and respondent.”

A quick look at the yet-to-be approved Violence Prevention Policy procedures outlines an extensive complaint and investigation process, as well as a specific definition of the word “violence.”

Even though this definition encompasses the “attempted or actual exercise of physical force against a person,” it also includes “unwanted emotional or psychological force” as well as “any threatening statement or behaviour” that makes someone fear for their safety.

The document also identifies specific worksites and jobs that are at a greater risk of encountering violence, pointing to people who handle alcohol, participate in large group events or provide services in student residences.

During Saturday’s meeting, BU chancellor Mary Jane McCallum asked why Indigenous people and other marginalized groups were not included in this section of the policy, since they are statistically more likely to face violence due to Canada’s history of colonialism and other forms of institutionalized discrimination.

In response, BU provost and vice-president (academic) Kofi Campbell said that the university is currently working with an external consulting firm to craft an official equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) policy that will better address these broader concerns.

“I think it might be more appropriate to really think about these issues as we’re going through our EDI, institution-wide policy, so that we can think of them in a systemic way and an institutional way … as opposed to an interpersonal conflict or a single incident,” Campbell said.

While the procedures for BU’s new Violence Prevention Policy will be finalized at a later date, Lamont mentioned he is developing an online training program to get school employees up to speed on this new framework.

He is hoping to have this online training program up and running by Feb. 8.

The Sun reached out to Lamont on Monday to ask when the full Violence Prevention Policy will be available to read online, but did not receive a response by press time.

» kdarbyson@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @KyleDarbyson

* A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Workplace Safety and Health Act was passed in February 2022, when the legislation only received an update around this time. The Sun apologizes for this error.

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