Infractions of Sexual Harassment See 78 Per Cent Increase at Concordia

After a Winter of Sexual Misconduct Allegations, Office of Rights and Responsibilities Sees Hike in Complaints

After allegations of sexual misconduct from Concordia’s creative writing program rocked the university this winter the school has reported a hike in complaints of sexual assault and sexual harassment. File Photo Elisa Barbier

After allegations of sexual misconduct from Concordia’s creative writing program and philosophy department rocked the university this winter, the school has reported a hike in complaints of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

This article has been updated to reflect an interview with Concordia Spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr.

Sexual harassment infractions saw a 78 per cent hike in comparison to the 2016-2017 school-year. 35 infractions were also noted for “sexual violence and sexual assault.”

In the 2016-2017 school-year, 23 infractions of sexual harassment were brought to Concordia’s Office of Rights and Responsibilities—the office that enforces the school’s code of rights and responsibilities while dealing with complaints of harassment and sexual violence on campus.

The following school-year, the office received 76 infractions of a sexual nature. 35 infractions received were for “sexual violence and sexual assault,” while 41 were received for sexual harassment. Sexual assault infractions were not listed in the 2016-2017 report because prior to 2017 the category of sexual violence and sexual assault did not exist, meaning complaints of that nature were rolled into other categories.

Out those 76 infractions, 37 cases were opened for infractions of a sexual nature, meaning the office investigated the situation and reviewed all the evidence provided to them. When a case is opened the office can also take action when necessary against a community member accused of sexual harassment or assault.

The most recent report also noted that 23 consultations were provided for sexual harassment while 16 consultations were provided for sexual violence and sexual assault infractions. Under the code of rights and responsibilities, the complainant can receive information and guidance through consultation, but not ongoing service with an investigation or reprisals against an accused.

The ORR saw a spike in activity in January, February and March of 2018, when Concordia’s Task Force on Sexual Misconduct was beginning to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct from Concordia’s creative writing program. Part of their strategy involved encouraging students to visit their office to file complaints or provide them with information that could be useful to investigations.

Highlights from the ORR’s yearly report show a hike in activity in the winter of 2018. Courtesy the Office of Rights and Responsibilities.

Allegations of sexual violence first emerged out of Concordia’s creative writing program in January of 2018. The CBC later revealed that professors David McGimpsey and Jon Paul Fiorentino were at the center of a third-party investigation, the results of which remain confidential. In April similar allegations of sexual misconduct in the philosophy department also spread through the Concordia community.

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As part of the office of rights and responsibilities yearly report, the hike in sexual violence infractions was discussed at yesterday’s board of governors meeting. Interim Director Lisa White explained that for one former student, the decision to report her complaint against a professor came as papers across the city starting writing about the allegations in Concordia’s creative writing program.

“[At first] she believed the professor would be protected by the university,” White said. “However after seeing news and activity surrounding allegations of sexual misconduct on campus she changed her mind and she came to the office, ready to file a formal complaint.”

“An investigation was undertaken by the dean [of the faculty], as is done for complaints against faculty,” White continued. “The teacher was suspended as a result. Once he returned there were subsequent incidents, and as a result he was ultimately terminated.”

White also noted the office has seen a 23 per cent increase in the number of consultations it has provided in comparison to last year.