Student groups learn the culture of consent

On Aug. 20, the Commerce Students’ Association hosted the first consent culture workshop of the school year, and it will not be the last.

U of M student associations can participate in consent culture training by contacting Justice for Women, a student group that advocates for and provides consent education on campus.

Vatineh Magaji, president of Justice for Women, said spreading information is the main goal of the student group.

“The group focuses on education based discussion, emphasizing that people from all knowledge backgrounds are invited to share and learn from one another,” Magaji said.

The workshops Justice for Women provide explore healthy ways to seek and receive consent in hopes of reducing the instances of sexual assault, harassment and violence on campus and beyond.

Consent culture workshops are 90 minutes and interactive.

“We find our message is best received when the recipients are actively involved,” Magaji said. “So our facilitators work to provide jumping off points and focus to the topic of consent in our modern world.”

The workshop material has recently been revised to include more bystander intervention information and more intersectionality acknowledgement.

To host a workshop, at least 75 per cent of each council’s members must participate.

Karan Saxena, the lead consent culture facilitator with Justice for Women, said that teaching consent culture is about both learning the practice of consent and unlearning harmful societal structures.

“Consent culture is founded on egalitarian values, that aims at unlearning all the rape myths taught to people in general about sexual assault, harassment [and] violence under the guise of victim blaming and policing of marginalized bodies,” Saxena said.

“It is a movement to combat oppressive ideologies by teaching people about giving and receiving consent, their basic rights in the realm of sexual assault, resources available for survivors, how to be an active bystander to prevent sexual assault of any kind and how to effectively respond to disclosures.”

Justice for Women Manitoba, along with UMSU VP Advocacy Sarah Bonner-Proulx, are calling for similar workshops to be made mandatory for U of M faculty in the wake of recent cases of inappropriate behaviour by professors toward students.

A spokesperson for the U of M has said that the university “has indicated that it will continue to explore consent training options, including mandatory, with all relevant groups.”

In mid-August, Winnipeg oncologist Gary Allan Joseph Harding was stripped of his medical licence for six months and fined after he was found guilty of professional misconduct. The doctor was teaching at the U of M at the time and made several inappropriate sexual advances toward students under his tutelage.

Last year, former U of M jazz professor Steve Kirby was fired from his then-current position at Berklee College after students told the college he had sexually harassed them when he was teaching at the U of M. The U of M faced criticism for not disclosing their investigation of Kirby to Berklee College, which the university responded to by referencing provincial privacy laws that barred them from doing so.

With files from Qudus Abusaleh.