CSU Councillor Told He Failed Mandatory Consent Training, Unprecedented

After Altercation in Session, CSU Unsure Whether They’ll Sign Off on James Hanna

CSU standing regulation says councillors must complete three hours of consent training as part of their mandate. Photo Elisa Barbier

Concordia Student Union councillor James Hanna has been told he failed mandatory consent training that all councillors have to complete by Oct.1. No councillor has ever failed the training since it was put in place during the 2016-2017 academic year.

CSU councillors must complete three hours of consent training. If not completed, they get deducted two absences, and councillors are only allowed up to three absences before their seat can be revoked through a vote on council.

Hanna was informed that he had failed consent training in a message by Sustainability Coordinator, Akira De Carlos, who said that “the CSU and [the Sexual Assault Resource Centre] have decided not to count the consent training [he] attended,” and that “we feel very uncomfortable letting SARC sign off on [his] hours based off [his] behaviour during the training.” The executive team also demanded that Hanna retake the consent training.

Internal Affairs Coordinator Princess Somefun and General Coordinator Sophie Hough-Martin told The Link that the SARC has the authority to fail councillors on consent training.

However, Concordia spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr denied this saying that though SARC holds the workshops, they don’t have the power to give attendees a failing or passing grade.

The SARC refused to provide comment, citing confidentiality reasons and “safe space policy” of the consent training. Today, De Carlos told The Link that, “technically no one has the right to fail a councillor—however, we were only made aware that SARC can’t fail or say [a training is incomplete] until after we told him he failed.”

During a consent training in late September, Somefun said an altercation broke out between her and Hanna.

In session, Hanna mentioned that because not enough women come forward to report sexual assault, the justice system isn’t able do its job properly. He said as a result this could end in lynch mobs taking vigilante actions against alleged rapists, which he said would be a horrible thing.

Somefun took offense not only to what she perceived as victim blaming but at the term lynching, which holds a racially violent history.

Somefun said she spoke to Hanna about her discontent, and said he refused to acknowledge her feelings or apologize to her. A recording of this conversation from the consent training was also sent anonymously to The Link.

Though The Link was unable to reach CSU executives for clarification on why James Hanna failed his consent training, this altercation seemed to be a catalyst.

Councillor Sophie Beauchamp, who was in the room during the altercation, said that Hanna left the room for a long time, which she speculates could have played a factor since he wouldn’t have completed the three mandatory hours of consent training.

“Completing a consent training predicates a willingness to learn and confront biases,” said Hough-Martin.

“It’s not a debate, it’s a learning experience,” she continued. “In a situation where someone fails to complete consent training that alludes to not having the openness and willingness to learn, instead, perpetuating very harmful stereotypes about sexual violence and refusing to confront where those stereotypes come from, and refusing to learn from those stereotypes.”

Former General Coordinator Lucinda Marshall-Kiparissis helped draft the mandatory consent training and said it’s particularly important for elected representatives to work towards creating safer spaces and building empathy. It’s also important they understand the ways they can harm people or violate their senses of self and autonomy.

“The only way I could conceive of someone having a problem with consent training is if they take offense at the very notion of critically examining their own behaviors with other people and the consequences of those behaviours,” Kiparissis said.

“Or if they come into the space deciding that their right to be an asshole is more sacrosanct than treating others with dignity.”

Hanna said that he wouldn’t apologize because he doesn’t feel sorry about the situation.

“I made a point using certain rhetorical devices and won’t apologize for saying what I believe is the truth just because you decide to read into my words something that is not there,” said Hanna.

“I will not apologize for something you did, you put words in my mouth, just to placate someone else’s sense of moral superiority.”

Though Beauchamp and councillor Chris Kalafatidis, who was also present, both believe that what Hanna said wasn’t okay, they aren’t convinced that his failing consent training was warranted. Beauchamp said she believes that additional training would be beneficial for him.

“From the interactions I have seen it’s not exactly like [the executives] have [Hanna’s] best interest in mind,” said Kalafatidis. “I don’t think he should have to do another training.

“I feel like James was giving it his best shot. He may have hurt feelings in his approach,” he continued. “I don’t think he should have to re-do the training. He stayed, he gave it his best go, it’s unfortunate how it went.”

Hanna told The Link he will refuse additional consent training.

Follow our reporting tomorrow in the second part of this series to learn more about how audio of this consent training was leaked online.