Student launches human-rights complaint against UBC
University’s handling of sexual-assault claims is under fire for the second time
Stephanie Hale remembers jumping up and down and crying tears of joy when she received her acceptance letter from the University of British Columbia.
Now, she wishes she had pursued her degree anywhere else.
Ms. Hale has filed a complaint with B.C.’s Human Rights Tribunal alleging the university failed to take action after she reported a sexual assault, leading her to struggle in class and take medical leave. It is the second known complaint the institution is facing.
“I want there to be a better process for when this happens again,” 23-year-old Ms. Hale said. “There are going to be others, which is a terrible shame. UBC is a really well-respected university and I feel it should set an example for other institutions for how to handle these kinds of incidents.”
The university has been under fire for its response to sexualassault allegations since 2015, when a group of women came forward to say the school had dragged its heels on complaints about a male PhD student. Glynnis Kirchmeier, who alleged she witnessed misconduct by the man, filed a human-rights complaint the following year.
In response to the criticism, as well as to a new B.C. law requiring universities to have sexualmisconduct policies, UBC passed a specialized policy earlier this year. It established centralized offices at both its campuses to receive reports, which are to be handled by investigators with sexual-assault expertise.
When contacted about Ms. Hale’s complaint, UBC said privacy legislation does not permit it to discuss individual cases.
Ms. Hale alleges the university discriminated against her based on her sex and mental disability, referring to her anxiety and depression. She says in the documents that she was sexually assaulted, choked and hit by a fellow student in January, 2013.
The student has denied the allegations. He has previously told The Canadian Press the sex was consensual and she asked him to choke and hit her, which he did although it made him uncomfortable.
The Canadian Press does not typically identify complainants in sexual-assault cases, but Ms. Hale wants her name used.
Ms. Hale reported the allegation of sexual assault to multiple UBC staff members in 2013, but none suggested she make a complaint or directed her to relevant policies, she says in the documents filed with the tribunal.
The university took no action, she says, and she continued to see her alleged attacker in classes. Her grades started slipping, she suffered from nightmares and began to feel suicidal.
“I felt very lost and alone,” she recalled.
She went on medical leave in December, 2015, and has not returned to school.
The following February, she learned of the Non-Academic Misconduct Policy, which was previously one of two policies that dealt with sexual assault. The process was the same one used for theft or vandalism and involved a panel of students judging whether an attack occurred.
The human-rights complaint says Ms. Hale’s lawyer wrote a letter to UBC requesting it appoint a properly trained investigator. UBC declined and ultimately the hearing was held without Ms. Hale in late 2016. The committee cleared the man of misconduct.
Ms. Hale is seeking an order requiring the university and her alleged attacker to make up for her lost educational time, her past and future wage losses, and complaint-related costs. She’s also asking the university to facilitate the completion of her degree.
Finally, she’s asking that the university revise its new sexualassault policy. Complainants are still not allowed to file appeals or see the investigator’s report, unlike respondents, she said.
But Sara-Jane Finlay, associate vice-president of equity and inclusion, said the new policy does mean complainants will be provided the report at the end of the investigation.
“We wanted to make sure that complainants received as much information as they possibly could because we recognized how important that was for resolution and healing,” she said.
A committee providing input on the policy hopes to discuss creating an appeal process for complainants, she added.
Stephanie Hale is alleging the University of British Columbia failed to take action after she reported a sexual assault, leading her to struggle in class and take medical leave.