January 24, 2018

ASFA Statement on Sexual Harassment at the University

Arts and Science students,

In the last few weeks, allegations have come out against several professors in the Faculty of Arts and Science’s English Department. The ASFA is deeply disappointed that for years, the University’s response to such events has lacked substance. It is particularly frustrating that these issues have only merited a response now that they have become mediatized. To claim lack of awareness is not an excuse; it contributes to a culture which jeopardizes student safety, particularly that of marginalized individuals, including but not limited to, students with accessibility needs, Indigenous students, racialized students, and LGBTQAI2S+ students. We would like to thank the individuals who have selflessly and heroically come forward with their stories, highlighting the systemic problems within our school and beyond.

According to its Mission, Vision, and Values statement, Concordia University claims to “valu[e] a secure and respectful learning environment and workplace, [and] is committed to promoting a healthy, safe and sustainable campus, and to enhancing the quality of life of the community in which we live”.1 However, according to data compiled by the University in 2015-2016, students have reported otherwise.Not only should the University fully investigate all allegations, but it must also take action against issues of sexual misconduct and abuse of power. The University must always prioritize the safety of its students and alumni who have suffered these kinds of abuses, rather than the professional positions of those accused of harassment and/or sexual misconduct.

The ASFA has created a task force to review and recommend internal and external changes concerning the University’s misconduct policies, as well as the inadequate handling of the power asymmetry in relationships between faculty members and students. Internally, our harassment policy will be reviewed thoroughly and completely reformed according to our students’ needs. The ASFA will be focusing on making resources more accessible for students who have experienced any form of harassment. We will also be looking for new ways to better stand in solidarity with students who have suffered as a result of sexual misconduct.

The ASFA has received assurances that the University will be including students  in the discussion and decision-making processes moving forward on these issues.3  We will call on the University to commit to structural changes in the way they address misconduct and abuse of power.  

We encourage you to reach out if you have experienced or witnessed harassment, and to contact multiple appropriate parties. It is vital that these testimonies are not limited to one recipient within the University.

Finally, if you have been personally affected by this, we will support and advocate for you. This should not have happened. We should all have access to a safe learning environment and the support we need for academic success.

If you feel comfortable doing so, please contact the Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) with both your positive and negative experiences with reporting harassment within the University. We need to be more informed on which resources are useful to our students and which resources perpetuate the same power dynamics which protect harassers.

If you have been the target of inappropriate behaviour or sexual misconduct of any kind by a professor or a student, you can safely and anonymously report it to: testimonials@genderadvocacy.org.

In solidarity,
The Arts and Science Federation of Associations

Suggested Resources

Internal Resources

Centre for Gender Advocacy
• Provides respectful, confidential peer-to-peer support, advocacy, and resources for those who seek it, with a focus on harm reduction, empowerment and self-determination.

Concordia Student Union Advocacy Centre
• Aims to help students who find themselves in difficult situations by accurately identifying their needs, as well as determining and executing necessary courses of action.

Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC)
• Provides confidential and non-judgmental support and services to Concordia University students of all genders and orientations who have been affected by sexual violence and/or harassment.

CSU Legal Information Clinic
• Volunteer law students provide Concordia Undergraduate students with legal information and referrals to lawyers if required.

External Resources

Sexual Assault Center of the McGill Student Society (SACOMSS)
• Volunteer-run organization committed to supporting survivors of sexual assault and their allies through direct support, advocacy and outreach. Their services include Drop-in, DIAL hotline phone number, support groups, advocacy and outreach.

Quebec Coalition of Sexual Assault Centres (RQCALACS)
• Provides support services for victims and their relatives and close friends throughout the judicial process. According to individuals’ needs, they may also provide support through health services, group support meetings and referrals to other organizations.

1 Concordia University, “Mission and Values Statment” http://www.concordia.ca/academics/undergraduate/calendar/current/mission.html
2 Concordia University: Office of Rights and Responsibilities, Annual Report 2015-2016, “Breakdown of Cases and Consultations by Infraction”
3 Concordia University Senate Meeting, January 19th, 2018.