Looking Back to Go Forward

Students in Steven Maynard’s “History of Sexuality in Canada” (HIST 210) class are taking an in-depth look at Queen’s history of tackling sexual violence on campus.

At Queen’s, principals, deans, rectors, faculty, staff and students have all grappled with the topic of sexual assault for close to four decades and, in many cases, implemented preventative measures and responsive initiatives, which are highlighted in a display in the foyer of Kathleen Ryan Hall.

“I try to structure each year of my HIST 210 class to speak to different present-day concerns,” says Professor Maynard. “Sexual assault has been a big topic on Canadian university campuses this year and so it made sense to focus on its history.”

With the help of university archivist Heather Home, Professor Maynard compiled materials for a timeline of Queen’s efforts to tackle sexual assault on campus so his HIST 210 students could conduct research for their final essays. The display includes 1970s Queen’s Journal articles, photographs of the 1989 “No Means No” protests, and ends with the recent interim Sexual Assault Support and Response Protocol.

Students Kaitlyn Puffalt and Kirsten Andersen used the display for their final essays.

“This was my first time using primary documents and I found being able to see the processes behind campus initiatives very interesting,” says Ms. Puffalt, Artsci’17. “For example, Walkhome and the blue lights on campus were a result of a safety audit conducted in the 1980s.”

The final essays involve analysis of the archival documents and then cross-referencing those primary sources to other media reports so that each student is able to think about what it means when initiatives are forgotten or the institutional memory is lost.

“You never know what you can find in the Archives until you’ve been there and had a look for yourself.”
- Steven Maynard

“By studying the display I’ve been able to understand what techniques worked for the university, and what didn’t,” says Ms. Andersen, Artsci’15. “As history students, it’s important for us to be able to look back and learn from the past in order to make decisions about the present and future.”

While the display was primarily for HIST 210 students to examine for class, it will remain posted well into the summer. Professor Maynard hopes that members of the Queen’s and Kingston community will go and take a look for themselves.

“You never know what you can find in the Archives until you’ve been there and had a look for yourself,” says Professor Maynard. “I want to help history students see the present-day value of historical archival research and how it can help them understand an issue in their lives today.”

This topic is one that continues to be addressed on campus today. This academic year, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Working Group (SAPRWG) has finalized an interim sexual assault protocol that will be used while the permanent policy is developed. A subcommittee of SAPRWG is currently working on a draft policy and progress report with recommendations for the final policy and procedures to be presented at the end of April.

Most recently, SAPRWG embarked upon a campus climate study that will examine student perceptions and incidences of certain types of sexual and physical experiences in relationships on campus. The results of this study will provide important information on the campus climate and help the university enhance its sexual assault prevention and response efforts.