UPDATED: CSU Wants Better Student, Survivor Representation on Sexual Misconduct Task Force

Demands Number of Students Be Increased, Good Academic Standing Requirement Dropped

From left to right: the CSU’s Leyla Sutherland, Ahmed Badr, Omar Riaz, Veronika Ryzdewski, Devon Ellis-Durity, CASE’s Debby Gemme, AVEQ’s Sohpia Sahrane, SSMU’s Connor Spencer, and Our Turn’s Caitlin Salvino, all gathered for a press conference regarding Concordia’s Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence. Photo Kelsey Litwin

The Concordia Student Union demands that the university change the way it’s forming the group tasked with addressing the sexual misconduct allegations in its creative writing program.

At a press conference Thursday morning, the CSU’s Student Life Coordinator Leyla Sutherland listed three changes they would like to see to the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence.

An email sent by Mary-Jo Barr, the university’s spokesperson, Thursday afternoon said the university is reviewing these demands and that, “[The university’s] intention is to move forward with the support of our entire community.”

  • That the selection process of undergraduate students be assigned to the CSU.

The current selection process, wherein students apply directly to the university, was deemed illegal by the CSU late last week. The Act Respecting the Accreditation and Financing of Student Associations says that only an accredited student association, such as the CSU, has the right to appoint student to university groups and committees.

Sutherland said that it’s essential that the CSU be the one to appoint students, with the understanding that this task force was mandated by the provincial government’s new law on sexual violence on campus, Bill 151.

“The CSU is deeply troubled that the university would choose to forgo this essential process,” Sutherland said.

Sophia Sahrane, the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec’s education and research coordinator and former CSU executive, explained that, “these committees were meant to empower students, community members, faculty, and staff, and more importantly, survivors.”

“Concordia University is once again undermining and dismissing the rights of students,” she continued.

The university responded that this task force was not created in response to the new provincial law and as a result “is not subject to the Accreditation Act,” wrote Barr.

Omar Riaz, the union’s general coordinator, said they are currently “exploring their options with their lawyers,” but that they “do not have any concrete plan as to how they will be moving forward.”

  • That the requirement for students to be in good academic standing is dropped.

“How do you maintain good academic standing when you have just been sexually assaulted?” said Sahrane.

She explained that by only allowing those in good academic participate in the task force, they are excluding survivors.

This fall, news came that three women who experienced some form of sexual violence on campus were taking their cases to the Quebec Human Rights Commission. In all three cases, the women suffered academically.

Felicia, one of the woman, said her grades dropped to the point where she was unable to be admitted to another university. Maria, another woman, said her studies suffered while preparing for her hearing with the Office of Student Tribunals, and that she felt as though she was being penalized.

“Let me be clear, the scandal is not that there is an existence of sexual violence on campus, but rather the intentional cover up and the dismissal of survivors,” said Sahrane.

  • That the number of students on the task force be increased to four, from the current two.

Concordia has four faculties: Arts and Science, Engineering and Computer Science, the John Molson School of Business, and Fine Arts. Sutherland explained that by doubling the number of student representatives, “all faculty needs” could be represented and that the student representatives could “reach out to their respective faculties.”

Want to know more about what’s happening? Read The Link’s coverage here: