CASE Joins “Protest Concordia’s Inaction on Sexual Violence”

The Concordia Association for Students of English invites students, alumni, and community members to stand in solidarity with us this Friday April 12, 2019 at the CSU Campaign’s Protest Concordia’s Inaction on Sexual Violence. We’ll meet in front of the GM Building at 9:30am to demonstrate against Concordia’s continued inaction and transparency regarding their policies.

We support the CSU’s 3 demands that Concordia:

  1. implement a stand-alone policy on sexual violence
  2. create a concrete action plan with timelines to respond to student recommendations
  3. lobby the Quebec government to change their privacy laws

Joining together this Friday to demand further action from our university is an important step to showing collective support of our various communities. We believe that the violence students in the English and Creative Writing Department have experienced is part of a much larger problem. These issues are becoming more apparent through the hard work of students and alumni, like those from the Psychology Department, who chose to share their stories with news outlets. However, needing to share these stories through the media so that faculty are held accountable is not an appropriate solution. Concordia needs a policy that properly represents and supports survivors of sexual violence and harassment, even when the perpetrators are employees of the school.

C.A.S.E. would like to add several demands of our own to this list. Throughout the past two years, despite C.A.S.E.’s continued work with students, survivors, alumni, staff, and faculty; we continue to be left out of broader conversations on sexual violence at Concordia by administration. This includes their decision to not give students access to the third-party group that completed the English Department Climate Report. Considering these experiences, we demand:

C.A.S.E. firmly believes that professors should not have sexual or romantic relationships with their students and that this type of behavior should not be condoned at Concordia. However, until a stronger policy is implemented, an administrative record of propositions should be used to properly document how often these propositions are occurring.

  1. A concrete action plan with timelines that describe the implementation of the Climate Report’s recommendations.
    • This must include goals to actively include student feedback. Collaboration with student associations must be done to plan and advertise both physical and online feedback options.
    •  Students should be provided with opportunities to respond to the action plan created by the Standing Committee for Sexual Violence and Harassment, as well as to the procedural structure of the Climate Report.
  2. Professors and TAs should have to report to the university when they proposition a student for a romantic or sexual relationship.
    • The same accountability required for having a relationship with a student should be expected when attempting an unsuccessful advance. Propositions to a student, whether successful or not, should adhere to the same conflict of interest, obligations, and consequences referenced in the Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship Guidelines provided by Concordia.
    • Any necessary accommodations that need to be made, like adjusting who grades that students, should not disrupt the student’s education or social standing among their peers and other faculty members.
    • Failure to properly report these interactions should have consequences. A series of propositions should concern the university as to that faculty member’s professional integrity – classrooms are not dating pools.
    • C.A.S.E. firmly believes that professors should not have sexual or romantic relationships with their students and that this type of behavior should not be condoned at Concordia. However, until a stronger policy is implemented, an administrative record of propositions should be used to properly document how often these propositions are occurring.
  3. An independent person needs to be assigned to the English department to help C.A.S.E. liaise with students and other Concordia departments about sexual violence and harassment policies.
    • This includes helping C.A.S.E. navigate student complaints against faculty and staff in the department confidentially. These conversations should not require students to report that behavior beyond the assigned ombudsman, but rather serve as an opportunity for students to express concerns.
    • Help ensure that C.A.S.E. and the student body are appropriately updated on the current policies, as well as any changes or updates that are made.
  4. Continue to support inter-community resolution and policy building between C.A.S.E., S.A.G.E., and the English department.
    • This includes, but is not limited to, new initiatives like the department specific code of conduct and the newly created ad hoc committee.

Without these demands being met, C.A.S.E. struggles to envision an improvement of the current climate within and beyond our department. Please join us Friday to share your support.

Thank you for your continued attention and action on this important issue.

Sincerely,
The Concordia Association for Students of English
2018-19 Executive Team

Release of Climate Review Report

Following the wider publicity in January 2018 around previous allegations of sexual misconduct in the English Department, Concordia announced they would conduct a Climate Review of the Department of English by external experts. However, they declined student requests to allow student representatives to provide input on which external experts would be chosen.

The Climate Review report was released on Concordia’s website Thursday, March 7th and is available at this link. However, we find this website version difficult to follow. We have chosen to share a pdf version of the report below, so that our students and alumni can read the report more easily.

Since the release of the report, we have been in communication with students, administration, the department, and alumni. We will be releasing our thoughts and minutes from some of these meetings soon.

Consent & Complaints: A Statement on the Systems Perpetuating Violent Power Dynamics at Concordia

Last week, the CBC reported that this past September a Concordia Creative Writing professor had been “exonerated” of complaints of sexual violence and harassment. The complainants received no information about the change of status. We condemn the mishandling of this case. From what we and our community members have learned about the official complaint process at Concordia, this end result is all too common.

There are, however, still two “unnamed” part-time teachers in the Creative Writing Department that are on leave and being investigated through a similar procedure. A few days prior to the CBC’s report, the Concordia University Part-time Faculty Association (CUPFA) hosted a panel conversation on Sexual Misconduct, Consent, and the University Climate. CUPFA is the union representing these two suspended professors.

Alongside activists like Julie Lalonde, CUPFA invited Julius Grey to speak on the panel. He is the human rights lawyer currently representing McGill Professor Ahmed Fekry Ibrahim, who is attempting to sue a student and another professor for voicing their concerns that Ibrahim had behaved inappropriately towards students. Grey’s presence derailed what could have been a productive conversation at the panel into a debate questioning whether the #metoo movement “had gone too far” and if Statistics Canada is lying about their data on false rape accusations. This panel could have been relevant to our community concerns by having more in-depth conversations about student-professor power dynamics and the accompanying inherent risks.

C.A.S.E. chooses to connect these two events because we recognize that our institution’s current system for representing survivors of sexual violence and preventing the abuse of students is broken. The institution’s lengthy system for filing complaints lacks transparency and advocacy for complainants. This contradicts claims that Concordia believes survivors and undermines trust in campus programs like the Sexual Assault Resource Centre. Resolving these kinds of policy issues in universities like Concordia, while still protecting labor rights, was the kind of conversation that should have been presented at last week’s CUPFA panel. Instead, it wasted the opportunity to discuss issues that are crucial to student safety and well-being, as well as demonstrated the imbalanced priorities of an organization meant to protect precariously employed people.

We are deeply concerned at the direction CUPFA chose to take the panel and believe that they are invested in protecting the reputation of faculty over the safety of students. We are disappointed. The events of the past year have already fractured the relationship between students and faculty in the English and Creative Writing Department. Concordia continues to assist in alienating and endangering students when their complaint process lacks transparency and student representation.

The Concordia Association for Students in English is troubled by the fact that the responsibility of calling out inappropriate behaviour and abuse within our classrooms and campus community continually falls on the shoulders of individual students. We cannot continue to bear this weight. We’re tired of witnessing its effects on our members. We will be working over the next few months to provide support for our students.

We are calling to action the other members of our community, like CUPFA, Concordia University, and individual faculty and staff members of these institutions. Students need to see real action that demonstrates support for believing survivors and building networks that prevent the abuse of power dynamics.

We invite students, community organizations, staff, faculty and alumnus to sign on in support of this letter to acknowledge that:

  • The complaint system at Concordia, and the legislation that supports its silence, is broken.
  • Policies at Concordia around complaints lack support or transparency for students and complainants, which is in direct opposition to the ideals of SARC.
  • Concordia must be changed to incorporate assistance for complainants in writing their formal grievances and provide the same kind of legal representation that accused professors and staff receive during an investigation.
  • CUPFA needs to clarify their relationship with Julius Grey and whether he has represented members of their association, in the past or present.
  • CUPFA must apologize for misrepresenting the intent of its Sexual Misconduct panel and for silencing voices of its audience by not allowing a question period afterwards.
  • Concordia needs to publicly apologize to past and present English and Creative Writing students that have been put at risk for, and experienced, sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of professors over the years.
  • CUPFA and Concordia, as institutions as well as its individuals, are responsible for changing the toxic community by implementing bystander intervention policies. They must promote responsibility between faculty to hold one other accountable to community standards and communicating those standards to their students.
  • Professors must commit to explicitly setting standards of behaviour for themselves and students in their classrooms.
  • Concordia staff and faculty should be directly asking for bystander intervention expectations and training that relates to their department, to prepare them to intervene.
  • Concordia needs to provide an explanation for the delay in the English and Creative Writing Climate Review, as well as set a specific deadline for its public release of recommendations.
  • Concordia, CUPFA, and the English Department must regularly update students and the public about its actions towards implementing these necessary changes.

Follow this link to sign on and agree to the contents of our statement, including the demands. The demands and the signatures will be sent to CUPFA, Concordia University’s President, and the English Department.

We encourage our students to contact case.president@asfa.ca to discuss any changes they would like to see on this list of demands as well as types of support they would like to see.

C.A.S.E. Statement (1)

Thank you,
Concordia Association for Students in English

Join the L.U.C.C. Vetting Committee!

Sailing News

After last year’s seventh successful Literature Undergraduate Colloquium at Concordia (L.U.C.C.), we would like to invite students to apply to our vetting team for our eighth edition!

The vetting process will begin in February 2019 but applications must be submitted to case.academic@asfa.ca by Friday, November 16th at 11:59 pm. When applying, please include a brief cover letter detailing who you are, your qualifications, and why you’re interested in being part of our team. Students are encouraged to include their academic and extracurricular history that might relate to their qualifications for this position. Depending on the number of applications, you may be asked to review a short sample paper to show your familiarity with academic essays.
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