UBCO professor Stephen Porter has stepped aside from his teaching duties and is under supervision by the College of Psychologists. - Credit: UBCO

Students frustrated by UBCO response to harassment allegations

Students on the Kelowna campus were unaware of resources and worried about lack of communication

UBCO students are frustrated with the lack of transparency and communication regarding the recent news that a psychology professor was placed under regulatory supervision due to “boundary issues” and “sexual harassment.”

Brie Welton is the coordinating editor at The Phoenix, UBCO’s campus newspaper. Welton said she has been talking with students over the past few days since the news of professor Dr. Stephen Porter’s regulatory supervision was released, and students are beginning to worry since an official statement has not yet been released from the university.

According to a statement issued by the College of Psychologists, Porter was placed under regulatory supervision for 18 months, with a particular focus on boundary issues, power differentials, sexual harassment, professionalism and doing no harm.

“Some people knew rumours, but since there’s been no official statement from UBC, everyone’s been in the dark,” said Welton.

UBCO implemented a sexual assault and sexual misconduct policy (Policy 131) last May and then in December hired a director to open a sexual assault and prevention office. That office is located in a building that houses student support services.

However, students say there has been little information released about the office’s location or that it was even open.

Jaclyn Salter, who is a coordinator at the university’s Women’s Resource Centre and a student, said she hadn’t received an official announcement that the office was open, nor that a director had been hired. She only had a rough timeline of the events which she called “frustrating.”

Welton has also spoken with students who say they were unaware that Porter was placed under supervision or that a sexual assault and prevention office is open on campus.

“I talked to a student yesterday who said ‘I’m surprised this is still happening,’ especially since UBC made a big deal about policy 131 last year and then had an external organization come in and ask Porter to step aside and then still make no comments. Students aren’t happy with the procedure and there’s a lot of unanswered questions,” she said.

Related: UBCO creates offices to address sexual assault

Welton was unaware of the office’s opening until Wednesday.

“There’s been no advertising, no one knows about it, it’s hidden in the bottom of one of the residence buildings and I’m not entirely sure which building it is,” she said.

She was also not impressed with the lack of response from UBC or the university’s student union.

“I’m really looking for a public statement, if not from UBC itself, at least from its student union. As our student union, it’s who we turn to in situations like this, silence from them is almost worse than silence from UBC.”

Student Union of UBC Okanagan president Trophy Eliwa said a statement about the incident would be issued Thursday afternoon (past press deadline) and there has been delays in releasing a statement because UBCO has not released more information to the union.

“On a personal note, sexual assault, especially being in a position of power, should not be an excuse for wrong to happen,” said Eliwa. “I think it would be best if the student union would be more proactive in highlighting the services we have to prevent that… the sexual assault prevention office I did not know about… It’s not easy to come out and have the confidence to go out and report the incidents that are there.”

Welton said there will be an information session on Jan. 24 about the sexual assault policy and office, but the announcement wasn’t made until after her interview with another media outlet.

However, Sara-Jane Finlay, associate vice-president for the equity and inclusion office for UBCO, said email notifications and announcements on the university’s website can be found regarding the sexual assault policy and prevention office.

“Throughout the time the policy has been in place, there has been clear information on where (students) can go to make disclosures and to receive assistance,” she said.

A communication did go out at the beginning of the summer and in September about the policy and the office, she said. An information session was not held in December because it was during an exam period and January is Sexual Awareness Month, so raising awareness is important, said Finlay.

“It’s not the intention to hide it at all, we really want it to be something people can access and feel comfortable accessing,” she said.

At the campus newspaper, Welton heard incidents first-hand with students who were potentially assaulted or harassed and didn’t know where to go.

“I’m concerned because I talked to a lot of students who said they wouldn’t know what to do in that situation,” she said

Porter is not allowed to supervise students, researchers, and volunteers and must provide letters of apology to unnamed complainants.

According to UBCO, Porter “has agreed to step aside from his teaching duties. He will continue to be engaged in his other academic responsibilities.”

And “for privacy reasons, we cannot further discuss the details of individual personnel matters.”

The details of the incident or incidents have not been released by UBCO. On UBCO’s website, Porter’s list of teaching includes forensic psychology, psychopathy, violence and personality theory.

Porter did not return Capital News requests for comment that were made through email and phone calls.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Snowmaggedon 2020’ has passed, but 20-30 milimetres of rain expected Friday

Residents should brace for rain and clear drains to prevent localized flooding

What happens in the Cowichan Valley when an earthquake strikes

When an earthquake does happen, will the Cowichan Valley be ready for it?

Exploring life, the afterlife, and near death experiences with Dr. Lynn Echevarria

Echevarria will deliver a talk to the LRCA Seniors Centre Tuesday, January 21 at 1:30 pm

Winter storm warning now in effect for Island’s east coast

Environment Canada issues new weather warning late Wednesday afternoon

Town of Ladysmith snow removal crews prepared to respond to overnight snowfall

10 to 15 centimetres of snow are expected for Ladysmith overnight Tuesday into Wednesday morning

‘Like an ATM’: World’s first biometric opioid-dispensing machine launches in B.C.

First-of-its-kind dispensing machine unveiled in the Downtown Eastside with hopes of curbing overdose deaths

Canucks extend home win streak to 8 with 4-1 triumph over Sharks

Victory lifts Vancouver into top spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

BC Green Party leader visits northern B.C. pipeline protest site

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada, British Columbia and First Nations

‘Extensive’ work planned at Big Bar landslide ahead of salmon, steelhead migration

Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan visited the site of the slide from June

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Royal deal clears way for Harry, Meghan part-time Canada move: experts

Keith Roy of the Monarchist League of Canada said the deal is exactly what Harry and Meghan asked for

Horgan cancels event in northern B.C. due to security concerns, says Fraser Lake mayor

The premier will still be visiting the city, but the location and day will not be made public

B.C. landlord sentenced to two years in jail for torching his own rental property

Wei Li was convicted of intentionally lighting his rental property on fire in October 2017

Blue Monday is a myth but seasonal affective disorder and the winter blues are real

Canadian Mental Health Association says weather can affect mood

Most Read