Editorial: Students Deserve an Explanation

Concordia Fails to Appropriately Respond to Sexual Harassment Complaints… Again

After making strides to improve campus safety and sexual violence, Concordia has eroded students’ trust yet again.

On Wednesday the CBC revealed that Concordia dropped a complaint of sexual harassment against a professor in the creative writing program without notifying the two students who originally filed the complaint.

How can Concordia claim so adamantly that they want to start an “open dialogue” with students about sexual violence when they aren’t continuing that conversation with the students bringing forward complaints? How can the school claim to give clear progress on cases after exonerating the professor involved without providing any rationale to the students who were left in the dark for six months after the allegations were dropped?

The Ministry of Higher Education was quick to note Concordia’s behaviour was out of line.

“We’d expect that any establishment that has investigated a harassment complaint against a member of its staff would report the results of the [investigation] to the person who originally filed the complaint,” wrote a press attaché to the CBC.

Their response seems to suggest Concordia’s Office of Rights and Responsibilities should have been able to report to students their complaints were dropped. Again, the school refuses to respond to our questions.

As a result, The Link and the rest of the school are left in the dark about why they even made this decision in the first place.

Instead of being forward about their mistake and issuing an apology to the community, Concordia refused interviews with journalists across the city, indulging instead in self-praising the university’s “growth” and “progress” on campus sexual misconduct.

“Over the past year, we have made a number of changes to promote a safe learning and working environment for our community,” wrote the school’s media relations team. “We believe we are on the right path.”

Their self-congratulatory takes and public relation response would have been slightly less offensive if they would have at least shown some willingness to answer our questions.

Students deserve an explanation.

Last April The Link published a timeline looking into the university’s handling of sexual violence complaints and Concordia’s “open secret.” The lack of dialogue between the university and the complainant falls in a long line of Concordia’s mismanagement of sexual misconduct.

But it isn’t only sexual violence complaints they’ve failed to respond to appropriately.

Even those involved with producing the play Blackout about Concordia’s Computer Riot couldn’t help but notice how the administrations’ mishandling of this complaint is reminiscent of their response to the 1968 racism complaints.

We recognize that in the year since allegations in the creative writing program were brought to light, Concordia has made strides in dealing with sexual violence.

They’ve updated their sexual violence policies to comply with new provincial laws, which also demands they begin mandatory consent training for all students. They released their report from their Task Force on Sexual Misconduct, and will also soon be releasing their climate review of the English department.

While credit is owed to their hard work, these positive changes shouldn’t be used as a way to deflect from the mistake that was recently revealed.