Editorial: Respect, and Trust, Lost
Concordia’s Current Climate and Lack of Communication are Unacceptable
Again, Concordia is in damage control mode, because students are faced with an uncommunicative administration concerning sexual misconduct within the university, as well as reports of the climate of its English department being unhealthy and poor.
The members of Concordia’s standing committee on sexual misconduct have signed a non-disclosure agreement, keeping them from communicating to the students about specific progress made in their work. Students are met with a frustrating silence, making them feel left out of the conversation.
While the community conversations set in place give space for students to share their ideas on how Concordia should handle complaints and express their thoughts about the current policy they want changed, the committee only takes note of their demands, but cannot confirm if they’ve been followed.
Therefore, every community conversation is like going back to step one, where students outline their demands and the committee listens, but does not confirm if they’ve been approved or implemented.
This then leads to mistrust because students don’t have confirmation that their needs have been properly put in practice and are unsure where to lead the next conversation from there.
That is only the latest instance of the frustration.
In February, two former Concordia students weren’t notified that the complaint they filed against a professor in the creative writing department has been dropped; they found out through the professor’s lawyer.
Provincial privacy legislation prevents complainants from learning about the result of an investigation. This leads students who have come forward to be left in the dark, and feel unheard.
We urge Concordia to advocate for their student body and pressure the provincial government to change the laws in favour of a process that respects those that bring forward allegations and keep them informed in a meaningful way.
The legislated lack of transparency protects the accused and hurt those who come forward. After filing a complaint against a professor or a university employee, the complainants are effectively kept out of the loop when it comes to the results of a major investigation.
The university may be held back by provincial law, but it is clear that there is plenty of fault lying at their door as well, and students know it. In a report on Concordia’s English department, a part of the university that has been at the centre of allegations, students showed a lack of faith in how the university handled sexual misconduct allegations and saw the department and the environment as something that was hostile and unhealthy.
When students do not feel that they can trust the university when it comes to bringing forward such claims, something that’s incredibly difficult even without the added mistrust, there is a real problem. Who can these people in a vulnerable situation confide to if not the university when it comes to addressing this problem?
If Concordia really wants to show that they deserve to have that trust, they can begin by pushing the provincial government to change those laws that the university says is hindering their openness.
We call on the university’s administration to exercise its influence to rebuild the trust that the student body holds back. This means not only properly and openly handling allegations that are brought to them, but actively pushing for meaningful legal change at the provincial level.