Concordia Concedes to CSU’s Demands, Allows Union to Nominate Students to Task Force
Demands for More Student, Survivor Representation Go Unanswered
One week after being accused of illegally selecting student representatives to sit on a Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence, Concordia has handed over nomination responsibilities to the Concordia Student Union.
On Jan. 25, the university called out for students, staff, and faculty to apply to the task force, formed in response to the sexual misconduct allegations in the university’s creative writing program.
The next day, the CSU’s student life coordinator, Leyla Sutherland, called this type of call illegal–saying “there’s definitely no point at which the university would be legally tasked with appointing students to represent students.”
Their claim was based on the Act Respecting the Accreditation and Financing of Student Associations, which says that only a student union has the right to appoint students to university bodies, if it is a group mandated by law.
During a press conference on Thursday, Sophia Sahrane, the education and research coordinator for the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec, said that this task force was created in response to Bill 151, a new provincial law about sexual violence on post-secondary campuses. Sutherland explained this understanding was due to the fact that the initial call out referenced the law.
This point was later refuted by the university, who wrote in an email Thursday afternoon that this task force is not permanent, and a different one will be created in response to the law.
Despite this, the university has given into the union’s demand that they be the group to nominate the two undergraduate students who will participate in the task force.
“Because our overriding goal is to finalize, as soon as possible, the membership of the task force so it can begin its work, the university will accede to the CSU Executive’s request to control the selection process for undergraduates,” wrote Mary-Jo Barr, Concordia’s spokesperson, in an email Friday afternoon.
Barr also maintained that the deadline for nominations will be Feb. 8, despite CSU by-laws dictating that they must have 10 days to make appointments.
No Word on Increased Student Representation, Academic Standing Requirement
During Thursday’s press conference, the CSU also demanded that the number of students on the committee be increased to four—one for each of the university’s faculties (Arts and Science, Engineering and Computer Science, Fine Arts, and the John Molson School of Business). This would also allow undergraduate students to make up one third of the task force.
Their other demand was that the requirement that a student be in good academic standing be removed.
Sahrane explained that this requirement excludes survivors of sexual violence, as “How do you maintain good academic standing when you have just been sexually assaulted?”
The Link has previously reported on multiple cases in which survivors of sexual violence and harassment on campus have suffered academically, as a result of their experiences and a lack of institutional support.
“It’s disappointing that they’re not taking it into account,” Sutherland said, continuing that it seems as though the university is not willing to budge on this point.