The McGill Daily - - Contents - —The Mcgill Daily edi­tio­r­ial board

Ol­livier Dyens was ap­pointed as Mcgill’s Deputy Provost for Stu­dent Life and Learn­ing (DPSLL) in Septem­ber 2013 for a five-year term, end­ing in July 2018. The DPSLL plays a cru­cial role in uni­ver­sity af­fairs, from en­rol­ment to ath­let­ics, with the broad man­date of im­prov­ing the “qual­ity of stu­dent life.” How­ever, mul­ti­ple facets of stu­dent life have been detri­men­tally im­pacted by Dyens’ ac­tions, par­tic­u­larly for stu­dents af­fected by men­tal ill­ness and sex­ual vi­o­lence. Lead­ing up to his pos­si­ble reap­point­ment, Mcgill’s Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee is ac­cept­ing com­ments on Dyens’ lead­er­ship by mem­bers of the uni­ver­sity com­mu­nity. Stu­dents must seize this op­por­tu­nity to em­pha­size the ways in which Dyens has con­tin­u­ously failed them.

Dur­ing his term as DPSLL, Dyens has su­per­vised port­fo­lios vi­tal to the well-be­ing of stu­dents, par­tic­u­larly through Stu­dent Ser­vices, which in­cludes Coun­selling and Psy­chi­atric Ser­vices and the Of­fice for Stu­dents with Dis­abil­i­ties. Be­tween 2011 and 2016, Mcgill saw a 35 per cent in­crease in stu­dents seek­ing men­tal health ser­vices. How­ever, over $2.5 mil­lion has been cut from Stu­dent Ser­vices’ over­head fi­nances in the past seven years. The Stepped Care pro­gram was in­tro­duced in 2016 in re­sponse to th­ese cuts, of­ten push­ing stu­dents in need of one-on-one ther­apy to­wards re­sources like on­line self-help lit­er­a­ture, deemed “un­likely to be highly valu­able on their own” by for­mer Mcgill Men­tal Health Di­rec­tor Nor­man Hoff­man. While Dyens claimed that Stepped Care elim­i­nated wait list times for over 100 stu­dents, it did so by mak­ing one-on-one coun­selling less ac­ces­si­ble. Stu­dents have re­ported be­ing turned away from coun­selling for be­ing “too high func­tion­ing” to war­rant help. The most re­cent re­forms to cam­pus men­tal health ser­vices pre­vent stu­dents from see­ing a psy­chi­a­trist un­less the stu­dent has a re­fer­ral from a gen­eral prac­ti­tioner or a Mcgill coun­selor. Men­tal health care re­mains even less ac­ces­si­ble for trans stu­dents, who con­tinue to face bar­ri­ers due to in­ad­e­quate staff train­ing, and for stu­dents ex­pe­ri­enc­ing eat­ing disor­ders, whose ser­vices were re­cently scaled down.

Dyens also su­per­vises Ath­let­ics and Recre­ation, a depart­ment no­to­ri­ous for its cul­ture of sex­ual vi­o­lence and mis­con­duct. Be­tween 2011 and 2013, three Mcgill R* dmen team mem­bers were charged with and in­ves­ti­gated for the sex­ual as­sault of a Con­cor­dia stu­dent. De­spite be­ing ar­rested in 2012, the play­ers con­tin­ued to play for the Mcgill team in the 2012 and 2013 sea­sons. Reports in­di­cate that both their coach and Dyens him­self were no­ti­fied of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and ar­rest, but Dyens re­fused to take ac­tion, stat­ing that al­leged sex­ual as­sault nei­ther war­rants dis­ci­plinary mea­sures nor vi­o­lates the Mcgill Code of Rights and Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties if it takes place out­side of cam­pus and “the Mcgill con­text.” Pres­sured by pub­lic out­cry that threat­ened to dam­age Mcgill’s rep­u­ta­tion, Dyens promised to im­ple­ment a bet­ter sys­tem of pro­tec­tion and ac­count­abil­ity with­out com­pro­mis­ing the se­cu­rity and well-be­ing of as­sault sur­vivors. How­ever, ear­lier this year, Dyens once again pub­licly ab­solved him­self of any re­spon­si­bil­ity to Mcgill stu­dents who have ex­pe­ri­enced as­sault by another stu­dent. In 2015, Kathryn Leci (now a Mcgill grad­u­ate) was phys­i­cally as­saulted by another stu­dent, Con­rad Gaysford. Gaysford was found guilty of the crime in 2016, but com­pleted his classes and grad­u­ated on time, as no dis­ci­plinary ac­tion was taken against him at Mcgill. Seem­ingly hav­ing learned noth­ing—nor hav­ing made sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments— since the 2011 in­ci­dent, Dyens once again cited the lack of a “Mcgill con­text,” spark­ing anger from many on cam­pus.

In short, Dyens has clearly failed to ful­fil his man­date of “en­sur­ing the best stu­dent ex­pe­ri­ence.” The Mcgill com­mu­nity must ex­press its op­po­si­tion dur­ing the reap­point­ment pe­riod—dyens must be held ac­count­able for the harm done by him­self and the of­fices he su­per­vises. Stu­dents wish­ing to leave com­ments or for­ward this editorial should con­tact ad­vi­sories@mcgill.ca.

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