Editorial: ASFA Is Plagued by Rape Culture

So we’re back where we started.

Last semester, the Arts and Science Federation of Associations drew criticism for their dismissal of calls to provide sexual consent workshops for Frosh attendees. Sean Nolan, ASFA’s VP Social, told the Montreal Gazette at the time that, “the attention span of these 18-year-old kids is not going to last long enough to understand the bulk of the presentation.”

A few editors and contributors from The Link went to Frosh, and they said the consent education consisted of a few trivializing, “let’s-cover-our-asses” buttons and stickers that said “No means no.”

Paul Jerajian, who recently resigned as president and is now a “consultant” at ASFA, told The Link in February that Frosh has many benefits. “A lot of people who do Frosh want to get involved with ASFA because they loved it so much,” he said.

The use of the word “love” is questionable. Many Frosh leaders perpetuated the half-assed, trivializing approach to teaching consent. From making creepy advances on young Froshees, to attempting to turn games of flip cup into strip cup, misogyny reared its ugly head in Frosh repeatedly.

The allegations of sexual harassment from former ASFA executives hammer in the uncomfortable truth: bro culture is rape culture, it currently defines the association, and it’s time for that to change.

It’s ironic that an ASFA executive said 18-year-old “kids” lack the attention span to sit through a consent workshop—when it seems that his whole organization, from its executives to its event leaders (some of whom are councillors) are the ones that need the extra education.

Frosh is just one example of the rape culture inherent in ASFA’s bro-dominated executive. Although the event, which had a net loss of $44,207, is its main attraction, the culture of Frosh seems to permeate ASFA’s day-to-day operations and smaller events.

Just this week, a former ASFA executive, under the pseudonym Mei-Ling, told the Gazette that she experienced a toxic environment at the Federation, which was perpetrated by two male executives.

“I was not a human being to them,” she told the Gazette. “They dehumanized me and that made me understand how they viewed me.” Her story is sadly unsurprising.

ASFA’s “cultural nights,” for example, seem to bolster stereotypes more than they enrich students’ experiences—check out the event’s photo albums on ASFA’s Facebook page and see for yourself. These nights of cultural appropriation have cost the Federation upwards of $3,000, according to an ASFA expense report from January.

The irony is poignant when contrasting these actions with ASFA’s mission statement: “Our goal every year is to provide a vital service to all Arts and Science students, representing and fighting for their rights, as well as enriching their experience at this university in many different ways.”

In its February council meeting, ASFA voted to remove sections from their bylaws that supported gender parity, multiculturalism and sustainability, saying “that kind of ethical guideline is very hard to follow strictly.”

Jerajian said that gender and racial parity is a conversation ASFA executives are always having. In the wake of these revelations, it’s clear that isn’t the case. A first step towards preventing such egregious misconduct in the future would be the reinstatement of bylaws mandating inclusiveness.

This year alone, ASFA accrued a projected deficit of $61,690, with a large portion of financial losses coming from Frosh. And now they want a fee levy increase. Again. In its by-election last semester, a question asking for an increase to the association’s fee levy failed.

“We thought the students were going to come to us versus the logical sense that we were going to go to the students,” Jerajian said at the time. “It was a poor judgement on our part.”

Poor indeed. What kind of leadership believes that thousands of people should personally ask why said leadership is asking for more money? Again, the executive team, with the approval of council, is asking for an added $0.38 per credit.

We won’t fully endorse that students vote no to this—after all, a new executive team will be elected, which hopefully means a clean slate. And ASFA does have the lowest fee levy proportional to its population (approximately 15,000).

What The Link does suggest, however, is that voters strongly consider the revelations that surfaced this week. Look over the candidates and decide whether these individuals are suitable for office and deserving of added cash to implement the change in culture ASFA has needed for years.

Also keep in mind that ASFA isn’t the only student association or organization at Concordia that’s guilty of upholding a misogynistic, toxic culture. Other faculty associations have Frosh too. And the Concordia Student Union has its own troubled history with sexual harassment and gender discrimination, while one can only imagine what secrets lie elsewhere in the school’s bureaucracy.

Marginalized groups are discriminated against daily in all walks of society. It’s time to face the problem head on. The fact that an unabashed proponent of rape culture shot down the implementation of consent workshops speaks for itself. Institutionalizing respect in the association’s bylaws and instituting mandatory consent workshops are baby steps towards a more inclusive culture, but they’re important ones.