CARSA has made updates to their Code of Conduct last week to include “personal and sexual harassment” on their list of unacceptable behaviours.
In addition to these changes to Code of Conduct, current gym goers — plus the thousands flowing into the gym come September — will have to adhere to an updated dress code that does not allow ”gluteal fold” to show when wearing shorts.
According to Clint Hamilton, the Director of Vikes Athletics and Recreation, the addition to the Code of Conduct is not in response to recent allegations of sexual harassment by gym goers but rather a standard “tweak” in accordance with the time of year — in the slower summer season, Hamilton explains, the CARSA administration regularly uses the time to update their policies and codes of conducts.
“It became an opportunity for us to, as we often do, review policy, codes, those types of things, in a way that [ensures we are] as responsive as we can,” says Hamilton. “We also want to do what we can to ensure that we’re providing the best possible environment for a welcoming, safe environment for people to partake in the many opportunities we have in CARSA.”
While Hamilton says these changes are part of an ongoing process to improve the facility, he recognizes the need to address issues of sexualized violence in accordance with the work that UVic has been doing in developing its Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response Policy.
“We take very seriously any instances or allegations of unacceptable behaviour like abusing language, personal or sexual harassment, violence, threats — we treat that very seriously,” Hamilton says. “Our staff is instructed to follow up on those when they become available to follow up with Campus Security. We’re working closely with Campus Security.”
As it stands, the protocol for gym goers experiencing sexual harassment is to notify staff and Campus Security. According to Hamilton, this procedure works to decrease the confrontation for staff members.
“A lot of our frontline . . . and fitness staff are students, so part of why we always want to update and review our Code of Conduct is to set expectation about usage . . . in a way that supports not only the people that are using the facility as users but also our staff,” says Hamilton.
After an initial report of the incident to Campus Security, the complainant can then choose to follow up through the Sexualized Violence intake office.
Sexualized Violence Policy
The intake office was created in the spring of 2017 as part of a recent effort by UVic to create a more comprehensive response to issues of sexualized violence at the university.
According to the most recent edition of the Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response Policy — the result of months of consultation between staff, students, volunteers, and community members — sexualized violence is defined as “any non-consensual, unwanted actual, attempted or threatened act or behaviour . . . This act or behaviour may or may not involve physical contact,” which would include instances of inappropriate gestures, comments, or leering in the gym facility.
Sexual harassment is then defined in the policy as “behaviour of a sexual nature by a person who knows or ought reasonably to know that the behaviour is unwanted or unwelcome.”
Complainants are welcome to report instances of sexual harassment or sexual violence to the intake office at any time and the policy and procedures in place are focused on providing survivors with support.
Daphne Shaed from Third Space Women’s Centre has been working with CARSA and attending meetings with CARSA administration, and says she still isn’t happy with the process of reporting.
“You’re talking about hours of your time [when you report to the intake office],” says Shaed. “You’re further harassing and victimizing people who are experiencing sexual harassment because you’re making the process so faulty and bureaucratic.
“There are no cameras in [CARSA] so how do you prove [that someone is sexually harassing you]?” says Shaed.
OTHER GYMS FOLLOWING SUIT
Meghan Lambeth, Camosun College’s Recreation and Fitness Coordinator, says that the key to combatting inappropriate behaviour in their gyms is a team of staff that has worked in their facilities for a number of years. While CARSA hires students, and as a result with a higher turnover rate due to graduation, Lambeth says her staff’s experience working at the gym means that they are very clear on what is acceptable and what isn’t.
While Camosun’s exercise facilities do not have a formal policy surrounding sexual harassment and sexualized violence in the gym, Lambeth reports that a new policy will be drafted in the fall. Lambeth expects the policy to be fully implemented by January 2018. Currently, Camosun’s protocol is similar to CARSA’s — complainants can report instances of sexual harassment to campus security — but Lambeth says that these instances are rare and are dealt with in a very timely manner due to the small staff structure in place at their facilities.
Similarly, UBC has no explicit policy on sexual harassment for their athletic facilities, however, they do include “Bullying, threatening and harassing behavior” in their Code of Conduct which stipulates actions that will not be tolerated in their gyms. By contrast, UBC’s sexualized violence policy is very clear that “voyeurism, which is non-consensual viewing,” is included in the definition of sexual misconduct and can be reported if the complainant chooses to do so after the fact.
Most other gyms in the greater Victoria community such as the YMCA include language surrounding “sexually explicit conversation or behavior,” in their codes of conduct, a document that members must read and sign before they enter the gym — the same process for members at CARSA.
In her meetings with CARSA, Shaed proposed an online quiz that gym members must take that tests them on whether they understand the Code of Conduct fully and what they are agreeing to when they sign the waiver before entering the gym.
For now, signage has gone up around the gym to inform members of the updated Code of Conduct and dress code policy.
“CARSA’s solutions have basically been ‘to cover up more and that will prevent leering,’” says Shaed. “I don’t think that’s the accurate solution to the problem.”
More information about the Code of Conduct can be found on the Vikes Athletic Website. If you have experienced sexual harassment at the gym, you can file a complaint at the Sexualized Violence Intake office at 250-721-8786 or visit the office in room C115 of the Sedgewick Building.