UNIVERSITY'S FAILURE TO ACCOMMODATE ACADEMIC NEEDS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT VICTIMS: A MAJOR SYSTEMIC OBSTACLE
Montreal, April 4, 2017 — Several victims of campus sexual harassment have encountered another systemic obstacle in their efforts to seek protection and pursue their studies: the inadequate support given by the administration to their academic needs.
In some sexual harassment cases filed by CRARR before human rights commissions, students experience a deterioration of their academic performance as a consequence of harassment and discrimination. This often ranges from a drastic drop in grades and GPA to the temporary suspension or abandonment of their studies. This has lasting adverse effects on victims who, as a result of these academic consequences of harassment and discrimination, may be prevented from continuing their studies, transferring to another academic institution or finding suitable employment.
The failure of the administration to provide pro-active academic support also results in victims feeling lost and uninformed about their options. Victims often mention the frustration and additional stress of “running around”, on their own, to deal with the registrar's office and program or department heads.
In addition to losing valuable time (“a year of my life”, according to one student) as well as delayed graduation and transition to the workforce, students also suffer steep financial consequences as they cannot have their tuition reimbursed, some even being at risk of losing their eligibility for scholarships, financial aid or student visas. Furthermore, contrary to survivors of sexual assault who are entitled to state-funded financial aid for victims of crime, victims of sex discrimination and harassment do not have access to such financial assistance to deal with expenses related to their ordeal such as off-campus counselling and housing moves.
“We have begun to document instances of non-existent or inadequate support for these victims, in terms of academic record restoration and other forms of accommodation of their academic needs,” said Charlotte Cheong, a CRARR caseworker who has worked on these cases.
“Institutional support to alleviate negative academic performance as a result of sexual harassment and violence should be pro-active, accessible and adapted to students' needs”, she said. “Victims should not be given the run-around, because they already experience many short-term and long term effects of harassment and discrimination on their well-being.”
As a representative of these victims before human rights commissions, CRARR will now systematically factor in the short-term and long-term impact of discrimination and harassment on victims’ academic performance, and institutional failure to accommodate these academic needs. In its civil rights complaints, CRARR will seek orders for academic record restoration and accommodation as part of its claims for damages and non-monetary remedies.
CRARR will also provide letters of explanation to students with low grades and a low GPA as a consequence of discrimination and harassment, who wish to apply to other universities.