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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Bortolin

Consent form for review (interested participants to email

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

Consent Form and Invitation to Participate (a copy will be emailed to interested participants)

Consent Form Sit Down and Shut Up September 2023
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Sit down and shut up: the silencing of women in Canadian post-secondary

Principle Investigator: Dr. Kathleen Bortolin

Vancouver Island University

Invitation to participate and Purpose of the Project

You are invited to participate in a project with the goal of exploring voice and discursive power among academic women in Canadian post secondary environments. This project explores the conditions that exist when women in higher education feel silenced, as well as the impacts of this silencing. The purpose is to collect and analyze personal narrative accounts of women and their experiences in the Canadian post-secondary context regarding this phenomenon. The research is particularly interested in identifying what conditions are present, who the key agents are, and what impacts arise in professional trajectories, mental health, and general well being when perceived cultures of silence exist. By collecting and analyzing data related to the lived experiences of women in Canadian university workplaces, this study seeks to raise awareness of this issue, and the conditions that exist when silencing is experienced. Furthermore, the research findings will be used to make suggestions to workplace policy and practices to support full, inclusive and safe participation of all members of university communities.

Who is responsible for the research project?

This is a research project undertaken by Dr. Kathleen Bortolin from Vancouver Island University. Kathleen works as an instructor in the Faculty of Education at Vancouver Island University, and is also an educational developer in VIU’s Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning. She is interested in collecting and analyzing narrative accounts of experiences related to voice, discursive power, and academic freedom in higher education.

What is involved in participating?

Participation in the project involves completing an interview (in person, or through video conferencing (e.g. Zoom), with the potential for follow-up contact by phone or email from the interviewer to check for accuracy. The interview will be conducted by the Principal Investigator. Interviews taking place through video conferencing will be recorded, and the audio will be used to create transcripts. In-person interviews will be audio recorded using a smart phone with password protection. Before your interview, Kathleen Bortolin will send along a list of anticipated interview questions. No preparation is required for the interview; the questions are shared in advance to improve accessibility in the interview process. You will receive copies of the transcribed interviews in a word document via email for your review. Participants will be asked to review the transcripts and will be able to edit the transcript and/or withdraw sections of the transcript.

Time and Data Requirements

Your involvement in this project will involve one interview and possible brief follow-up interactions. The interview will last approximately 75 minutes. Interviews will be recorded. The personal information on the recordings will be kept confidential for any publications, presentations or communications emerging form the research project.

You may decline to participate in the interview without any consequence

Your participation in the interview is voluntary, and you have the right to withdraw your consent or discontinue participation at any time. Your choice of whether to participate in the interview will have no bearing on your relationship to the researcher or Vancouver Island University. You have the right to refuse to answer particular questions.

Potential Risks of Participating in the Study:

There are some known risks associated with participating in the project.


Participants may be concerned about issues of anonymity and repercussions if they were to be identified in any way. To mitigate this risk, data will be anonymized, and pseudonyms used. Vague references to the type of position participants hold (e.g., lecturer), the type of institution they work at (e.g., research university) and discipline (e.g., Social Sciences) to draw high level conclusions, but all other identifiers will be stripped. Data will be stored in password protected files, and destroyed after two years post-publication, or after July 1, 2026. Participants will also have access to their transcripts for two weeks, and will be allowed to pull out of the research project up at any time during those two weeks. Any student research assistants will also be apprised of the importance of confidentiality, and will be expected to adhere to ethical and professional standards in this regard.

Vancouver Island University (VIU) Participants

This project makes use of student research assistants from VIU to support transcription and data analysis. If there are participants who work at VIU, they may be concerned about privacy given that students from their place of work will be privy to their data, and could guess their identity. To mitigate this risk, the principal investigator will endeavour to have student transcribers NOT transcribing data (and privy to the voice) from a VIU employee in their same department. Additionally, the Principal Investigator will review transcripts from VIU participants to remove any identifiers such as name, specific position, department, etc. prior to RAs engaging in the data analysis. However, the nature of the data may be such that RAs could still identify that the participant is from VIU. Student researchers will also sign a non-disclosure agreement (template available upon request), and will have received Tri-Council training in research ethics, including achieving a CORE certificate from the Tri-Council.

Feeling triggered

Another risk involves the potential for participants to feel triggered when sharing their experiences. Although participants will have self-identified as experiencing silencing in the post-secondary environments, sharing those experiences may trigger deep emotional feelings. They may even trigger trauma responses. Participants who have experienced sexism, gaslighting, harassment, alienation, and silencing most often carry with them deep, negative feelings of inadequacy and fear. To mitigate this risk, the interviewer will work to create a safe, non-judgmental interview space. She will use active, committed, non-judgmental listening and interviewing techniques, as well as commit to learning more about trauma-informed interviewing techniques prior to undertaking the interview. She will encourage participants to engage in self-care, and to reach out at any time if they are struggling. She will also emphasize her commitment to anonymity at the end of the interview process.

All data collection will take place only after you are made fully aware of the project, and after informed consent is obtained.

Potential Benefits of Participating in the Study:

This project will contribute to understanding the experience of academic women who have experienced discursive inequities, a lack of academic freedom or a sense of silencing in the workplace. There is limited research on this group in the Canadian context and the impacts of these experiences on women who work in higher education. Evidence of this phenomenon will help bring awareness of the conditions that exist when women feel silenced in higher education, help others feel less alienated when experiencing this treatment, and impact policies and protections for women and their voices in higher education. We are collectively responsible for creating healthy and inclusive working environments for all people, and this research is attempting to move Canadian post-secondary closer to that aim.


Participants will not be paid for the time spent on this project.

How will your personal data be stored or used? What will happen to data at the end of the study?

If you consent to participate in the interview, your identity will be kept confidential. This completed consent form will be kept separate from collected data to protect your identity. Data will be coded with pseudonyms. All data from the individual interviews will be kept digitally, in password protect files, on a VIU employee computer and on VIU’s servers. Zoom interviews will also be recorded, and saved locally on VIU servers. Only members of the study team will have access. All research data arising from the individual interviews will be anonymized.

In the dissemination of this research, direct quotes will be used but only when they do not risk revealing identities of the participants.

The principal investigator will take all possible measures to keep your identity protected. At the same time, we recognize that the academic community can feel small. There is always a risk that your words paired with discussion of your work at your institution might be identifiable to some people. Your name, institution and city will not appear in any reports on the completed study and to the best of our ability we will mask identifying information.

Who can I contact if I have questions or concerns?

If you have any questions, desire further information about the project or wish to exercise your rights as a participant in the project, you may contact Kathleen Bortolin at or via phone: 250-616-1068.


Kathleen Bortolin, PhD

Principal Investigator


Your consent is required before you may participate in this project; however, your participation in this project is entirely voluntary. You may refuse to participate or withdraw from the project at any time without any consequences. Please email to indicate your interest and receive a a sign-able consent form (or download from above)

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