Editorial: Concordia’s Reports of Sexual Violence Increase, But Violence Has Always Been Here

A Look at Concordia’s History of Sexual Violence

Sexual harassment infractions at Concordia University 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.”

Concordia’s office of rights and responsibilities was also hit with an increase in activity from January to March 2018. This was at the same time Concordia’s Task Force on Sexual Misconduct was created to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct against two professors in the creative writing department. Their mandate was to further investigations into sexual misconduct allegations, and to make sure Concordia creates a safer environment for its students.

While these hikes are significant with the rise of sexual misconduct allegations at the school, we have to remember that victims of sexual violence are not just a statistic. Their experiences are valid, whether or not they come forward with their stories.

With the increase of these incidents and the normalization of coming forward created by the #metoo movement, the institution is finally paying attention to the issue. But no matter how high or low the number of reported cases surrounding sexual violence are at the school, the act of sexual violence against students has long since been a reality.

Timeline of The Link’s coverage of sexual assault cases

Back in October 2013, a Concordia student reported a man allegedly “groping himself” in the Webster Library. She said she heard of three other occurrences of similar sexual harassment specifically at the Webster library. Two of the three incidents were people she knew personally. Former Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota, said there would be more security personnel around the downtown campus.

In April of 2015, a story about a former Concordia student within the Arts and Science Federation of Associations, who had been allegedly racially and sexually discriminated against within the association. She was a victim of finding repulsive Facebook messages between the vice-president of social affairs and the former president of ASFA, with the two discussing revolting sexual approaches, going beyond Facebook as well.

Within the same time period, a former Concordia Student Union representative was a victim of harassment within the CSU, when she had left her email open and photos of her naked were distributed about the office. When she confronted the person who had been blamed, he denied his action but explained he was “really glad I got to see those pictures.”
She dropped her case with the Office of Rights and Responsibilities, because she said she felt hopeless.

In November 2017, three former Concordia students shared their stories about Concordia’s flawed sexual violence policies. One of the students recalls her attacker assaulting her for the second time but on campus ground. Since then, her attacker finished his degree, while she stopped going to school.

The second student saw sexist posts about herself across social media platforms, while she was running for a student association. Once her campaign finished, the harassment persisted. Her harasser was found guilty of violent and threatening conduct. The tribunal process included assembling 300 pages worth of evidence against her attacker. This distracted her from her studies and she had to take a year off school.

The third student was an employee at one of Concordia’s bookstores. In 2015, she was harassed by her co-worker based on her sex and gender. She was fired after approaching her manager twice to attempt to solve the issue.

At the beginning of 2018, a blog post revealed that of some” English professors at Concordia were accused of sexual harassment. The author of the blog post recalls allegedly witnessing multiple professors in Concordia’ English department having inappropriate relationships with female students.

This February, The Link published a report concerning sexual harassment allegations against the Graduate Student Association’s president. Two women came forward and told their stories about the allegations against the president. Both recall receiving comments about their bodies, and uncomfortable touching. Both filed a grievance with the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

In March 2018, a former Concordia student filed a complaint against Concordia for the lack of accessible resources to protect her from her harasser, a philosophy professor in her department back in 2009. Because of all the stress, she failed two of her philosophy classes and hasn’t visited the department since.

In April 2018, the former ASFA president was accused of sexual harassment by two students. Both claimed the former president of abusing his authority. Both underwent an informal mediation process, with mutual friends as mediators. ASFA’s former sexual harassment and assault policy was then dropped in February due to its ineffectiveness. ASFA has then implemented a new policy, will no longer require the complainant and the accused to attend mediation together to resolve complaints.

This is just a small portion of the stories former and current students tell about sexual harassment and violence at Concordia. According to a report released this June by Concordia’s Task Force of Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence,” about 140 students surveyed allege to having had experienced sexual violence at Concordia.

One hundread forty stories. 140 victims. And those are only the ones who answered the anonymous survey, there may be much more. Sexual harassment and violence is a painstaking reality, at Concordia and in other institutions whether or not they are reported or publicized. Lest we forget.