SAIT has policies protecting students and staff against sexually harrassing behaviour, the man who administers the rules says.
Michael Sondermann, associate registrar at SAIT, says that any person who believes they have been harrassed should tell someone with the institute what has happened, and an investigation will be conducted.
“All of the policies are located on www.sait.ca. They are all there for students to look at and to reference,” Sondermann explained in a recent interview.
No matter what the policies say, Sondermann emphasized that students should know that there is always help available to them.
“If something happens to you on campus, at home, or at work, there are always people there to help you and people who will protect you,” he says.
“You are never alone. There are always services that you can turn to.”
There is more awareness surrounding sexual harassment now than ever before with recent cases, such as the incident involving Dalhousie University dentistry students, bringing people’s attention to these issues on post-secondary campuses.
When it comes to SAIT’s policy, Sondermann emphasizes that there are clear steps that will be followed in the event of a complaint.
If something happens to you on campus, at home, or at work, there are always people there to help you and people who will protect you. – Michael Sondermann
“After we hear a complaint, we meet up with the person who filed the complaint. Then we begin an investigation into what happened, and we interview and speak with the person who is being accused,” Sondermann explained.
“Then a finding will come in after the investigation. If the person is found (responsible), we will impose the necessary consequences.”
The procedure always stays the same, no matter who is involved. It also applies no matter what the circumstance, whether the event was physical or verbal, and whether it took place in-person or on the Internet.
Sondermann also stressed that investigations are always done in a professional manner and are unbiased.
“Anyone can make any allegation that they want. It may or may not be true.
“That is why it’s up to the investigators to get to the bottom of it and make sure that everything is fair.”
Under the Alberta Human Rights Act, which is the statute that covers these issues, sexual harrassment can be any ‘unwanted’ behaviour.
Harrassment is not a Criminal Code offense, like sexual assault, That’s why it is dealt with by SAIT, under institute policies, rather than the justice system.
Since 2011, there have been eight harrassment complaints made to the school.
All of those complaints were investigated, and the outcomes varied from findings for the complainant, to decisions that no breach of the policy had occurred, Sondermann said.
Parties always have the right to appeal a decision, and there were appeals in a few of the cases.
The associate registrar explained that there are a variety of policies that apply to sexual harassment. In particular, SAIT has a discrimination policy, an ethical behavior policy, and a code of conduct.
The school is also governed by the ethical principles policy, which focuses on fairness, integrity, respect, safety and transparency.
Students may not know the exact details of these policies, but they do seem to understand the importance of them, and how serious sexual harassment is.
“I think that the policy is very important, and obviously every school needs one,” said Mikaela Valgardson, a second-year library information technology student.
“I think that sexual harassment is too common, but it’s good to know that there are procedures in place in case it happens.”
Brandon Karp, a second-year new media production and design student is happy to know that SAIT is diligent in dealing with complaints.
“I think that it is a very serious issue and it’s good to know that there is support available for students,” Karp said.
For more information on SAIT’s policies, visit the SAIT website.