Written by: Belinda Karsen and Sasha Wiley-Shaw
In recent years, Canadian post-secondary institutions have adopted sexualized violence policies and allocated resources to develop related educational programming. However, student audiences are often prioritized over faculty and staff, as if sexual violence were primarily a student issue. As a result, sexualized violence support workers and educators are often left to deliver faculty and staff training off the sides of their already-overflowing desks. This reality does not recognize that faculty and staff training is just as important as student programming. While students may spend a few years on campus, faculty and staff may spend decades. If we want to change the culture of a post-secondary environment, we also need to develop comprehensive educational programming for faculty and staff.
As sexualized violence educators whose professional roles include faculty and staff training, we are familiar with the complexity of creating effective sexualized violence prevention resources for post-secondary employees. The following are a few suggestions for staff who are seeking to introduce or augment a faculty and staff component in their institution’s sexualized violence prevention programming.
A critical consideration is capacity limitations, especially for staff with large, diverse portfolios. With already-full plates, where are we to find space to both develop and serve sexualized violence prevention and response programming for faculty and staff? Best practices in adult education point to the necessity of content and practice for adult workplace learners that replicates professional practices and workplace duties to the greatest extent possible (Knowles, 1973; Garavan et al., 2002; Bin Mubayrik, 2020). Recommendations to manage your capacity limits include:
Tailor existing materials for faculty and staff audiences rather than creating entire separate curricula. Adding discipline or role-specific terminology and examples, such as in scenarios and learning outcomes, can often be enough to make the content fit.
Create learning resources that can be accessed asynchronously. A virtual resource repository that faculty and staff have access to enables training to occur along with timelines that respect participant capacity limitations, and learning to occur without our presence, respecting our already demanding workloads.
Navigate Institutional Hierarchies
When developing educational resources for faculty and staff, it is critical to be mindful of the disparities in working conditions among permanent and contract employees. For example, contract or sessional instructors and teaching support staff may not have allocated professional development time. Depending on the institution, completing sexualized violence prevention training, or serving on an advisory committee or focus group, may not be recognized as service in the tenure and promotion process. It is worth learning more about the working conditions of each employee group on your campus to develop educational resources and training opportunities that are feasible for them and don’t contribute to the exploitation of precarious workers. Recommendations to navigate hierarchies include:
Review collective agreements, connect with union representatives or Human Resources, or talk to trusted partners to learn more about the working conditions of each employee group.
Develop a variety of educational opportunities that respect the working conditions and capacity of each group, such as poster or social media campaigns, blog posts, concise guides, or web-based resources.
Recognize that precariously employed people or people of marginalized identities are often called on or expected to engage in this kind of work, many times with no recognition or compensation (Hayes-Smith et al., 2010; Shayne, 2017).
Find Your Champions
We know that this work is done best when it’s done collaboratively, so find the faculty and staff members who share your values and who hold some institutional power. These champions can make introductions, get you onto meeting agendas, amplify your communications, or even co-develop training and resources. Recommendations to find your champions include:
Identify academic or non-academic units with an orientation toward social justice, or who work in adjacent fields such as public health, social work, or gender and sexuality studies. Start with the departments and people who already support your mandate.
When you meet a potential champion, don’t be afraid to ask them with whom else you should be connecting. They will often volunteer to introduce you.
Our champions often want to support our work but aren’t sure how. Prepare for those introductory meetings or conversations with a clear ask, such as getting your presentation added to a departmental meeting agenda or included in a departmental retreat or professional development day.
Look for mutual benefit. Ensure that your relationships with your champions are equitable and reciprocal. Are there needs or gaps in their departmental programming that you might be able to help with? When you do offer to share your expertise or to support the programming of a campus partner, be clear about your capacity, deliverables, and timelines.
Express your gratitude. Recognize and thank your champions in ways that are feasible. For example, send them a personalized thank-you card or care package, acknowledge them in co-developed resources, or even just take the time to connect with them as fellow humans.
We work within complex systems of competing needs, and it’s easy to get pulled into non-stop, student-focused work because the needs and routes to engagement feel relatively clear. However, when we fall into this, we fail to attend to the people who have a longer-term impact on the culture of a post-secondary institution. Achieving real change with regard to sexualized violence requires us to attend to capacity, navigate hierarchy, and find our champions so that we can engage faculty and staff in the essential work of cultural change in our institutions.
For additional recommendations on faculty and staff training, refer to pages 108-110 of the Courage to Act report.
Bin Mubayrik, H. F. (2020). New trends in formative-summative evaluations for adult education. SAGE Open. https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244020941006
Garavan, T.N., Morley, M., Gunnigle, P., & McGuire, D. (2002). Human resource development and workplace learning: emerging theoretical perspectives and organisational practices. Journal of European Industrial Training 26(2/3/4), 60-71. https://doi.org/10.1108/03090590210428133
Hayes-Smith, R., Richards, N., & Branch, A. (2010). ‘But I’m not a counsellor’: The nature of role strain experienced by female professors when a student discloses sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Enhancing Learning in the Social Sciences, 2(3), 1-24, DOI: 10.11120/elss.2010.02030006
Knowles, M. (1973). The adult learner: A neglected species. Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing Company.
Shayne, J. (2017, September 15). Recognizing emotional labour in academe. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2017/09/15/importance-recognizing-faculty-their-emotional-support-students-essay
Suggested Citation: Karsen, Belinda., Wiley-Shaw, Sasha. (2021, August). Emerging Practices for Faculty and Staff Sexualized Violence Prevention. Courage to Act. www.couragetoact.ca/blog/staff-gbv-education