SECTION A: HIGHLIGHTS OF ACTIVITIES FOR 2000 – 2001 AND 2001 – 2002
1.What the Statistics tell us.
ii. Educational sessions
Student groups most actively make use of the Human Rights Office as an educational and information resource. This reflects the high level of involvement by students in everything from student government, discipline matters, student-run services and media. Many student groups have shown a high level of awareness of the implications of human rights in all of these areas and have recognized the need for specialized training.
One area that requires very extensive and specialized training, yet has been inconsistent in terms of training in human rights, is that of peer advising. Students are very involved in residence life work as dons, facilitators etc., and in addition, many are choosing to volunteer for on-campus student groups that provide peer advisory services. This type of activity puts students on the front line as first contact for students looking for advice on various issues, including harassment and discrimination. The increase in student peer advisory services is very positive because studies have shown that students will tend to discuss such issues more openly with their peers. It is, however, also fraught with difficulties because of the potentially complex legal issues involved in attempting to appropriately resolve or refer such cases. This means that students are in very vulnerable positions when they undertake this work. Thus the need for appropriate training in the areas of human rights, natural justice, conflict resolution and first contact, becomes all the more important yet not always recognized as such. Some students who are in peer advisory roles, either through their employment or as volunteers, do receive adequate training, while others receive little or no training in this area at all.
Student run services have consistently made human rights training a priority over the years, and this period was no exception. An AMS run business is in a very delicate situation: it needs to operate as a business and make a profit from a very specific public, but it is also directly connected to a political body that needs to represent the needs and interest of a diverse community. Making the situation even more complex, is the fact that these services operate within a larger institution, Queen’s, which itself offers a service (education). The students who manage these businesses become employers and service providers within a bigger organization that is itself an employer and service provider. Both must respect human rights obligations as set out in the Ontario Human Rights Code, but the services offered by the student business and that offered by Queen’s are different and their public can also be somewhat different. These various elements can lead to misunderstandings and even conflicts with respect to human rights obligations. It is very encouraging therefore, to note that many student services are recognizing this complexity and adding human rights training to their agendas.
Student media organizations seldom seek advice or training in the area of human rights. Print media in the larger community generally belong to a press council that acts as a self-regulatory body and ensures accountability from newspapers, editors and journalists to the public and the profession. The student press does not have this type of structure to rely upon and consequently, the Human Rights Office has found that concerns expressed by community members with respect to some of the print media on campus are never adequately addressed. The Office has seen instances where such concerns have been appropriately addressed, but some too often they are not and this may hinder the University in its attempts to provide an environment free of discrimination and harassment.
More and more academic units are recognizing the need for training in human rights, in particular for their Teaching Assistants. The numbers can be misleading however, because the requests tend to originate from the same departments each year.
Many student services departments within the University have been very pro-active in ensuring that their staff has the opportunity to receive human rights training. Unlike the student-run services, there is continuity in staff such that training does not have to be repeated every year, and sessions can be less general.
Senior administrators and staff are the groups who request and receive the least amount of training.
The pattern of delivery of educational sessions, which peaks at the beginning of the academic year, is ideal. It allows staff to prepare sessions that have been requested during the period that requires less case resolution work.
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