Mandatory CSU In-Person Consent Training Called Into Question

Deadline for Training Completion Has Been Removed by Vote

Some councillors feel the CSU mandated consent training should no longer be mandatory. Photo Ireland Compton

The Concordia Student Union’s mandatory in-person consent training and its restrictive timeline was called into question by councillors at Wednesday’s meeting. The deadline has been lifted, so councillors will no longer have to resign for not completing the training in time.

Some councillors argued the university-wide online training is equivalent to the in-person one provided by the Centre for Gender Advocacy or the Sexual Assault Ressource Centre, and want to be exempt from this year’s training.

The importance of consent training

“As we saw from last year’s annual campaign, and the issues that have risen on campus, [sexual misconduct] is an issue that doesn’t just go away,” said Isaiah Joyner, external affairs and mobilization coordinator for the CSU.

Joyner believes it’s important for councillors to do the training every year regardless of how many times they’ve done it in the past. This offers students peace of mind, knowing their elected representatives can be trusted when it comes to such a sensitive issue.

“If I have to do that every year for frosh, and I’m not looking to be exempted from it, when you’re representing students at this level, […] they should be able to have that same trust in your judgement, that you know what consent is,” he continued.

Councillor Hannah Jamet-Lange agreed with Joyner’s sentiment.

The online university training cannot replace an in-person training, she said. “I don’t think anyone should be exempt from this.”

While she acknowledged the complications from the standing regulations and time constraints, she said she believes every single councillor should be mandated to go through training.

“My hands are getting clammy at the idea of not having in-person consent training. It’s so so so important,” said councillor Victoria Pesce. “I’ve sat through four, five consent trainings just this year, and I’ve had to walk out of a few because I’ve been triggered because I’ve dealt with sexual violence.”

“For me, the idea of ‘Oh, I did it online so I don’t have to do it in person’ is insulting,” she added.

Marin Algattus, the CSU internal affairs coordinator, assured councillors that another in-person consent training would be held so everyone could attend.

During the vote to call to question, Pesce commented, “It shows who deals with sexual violence.”

Reducing the penalty for missing consent training

A motion to amend the time constraints problem was proposed by councillor Lauren Perozek.

Under section two of the Sexual Violence and Safer Spaces policy, it states “councillors must complete three (3) hours of consent testing by October 1st of their mandate. Councillors elected in by-elections must complete the same consent training prior to February 1st.”

It also states “the online consent training required by the university is not equal to the in-person consent training […].”

Perozek moved to have councillors elected in the 2019 by-elections exempted from resigning for not completing the training before Feb. 1.

The standing regulations state the failure to complete the training results in an automatic resignation, whereas the by-laws state they result only in the administration of two absences. While these two points conflict, by-laws take precedence.

“It’s hard because there are people in the room, like myself, who are sexual assault survivors. Being in that room isn’t easy.” —Christiane Sakr

Special cases

Councillor Peter Zhuang moved to have councillors be exempt from needing to redo it all together if, like himself, they had completed the training three times in the past.

Councillor Jarrad Haas disagrees with Zhuang.

“I’ve also done the training three times, that’s my role as a councillor,” Haas said. “If you get elected to council you have to do the training. If you get elected four times, you have to do the training four times.”

“My former experience with the CSU is important, yes, but especially when it comes to something like consent, consistency is important,” he added.

Joyner moved to table the motion indefinitely.

“I understand it’s inconvenient, but this isn’t a hill you want to die on, not doing consent training,” said Désirée Blizzard, CSU finance coordinator, to close the conversation.

After the fact

“I don’t see how a consent training would help,” Zhuang said. “It’s similar to the one done by the school, and I’ve already done it.”

To him, the consent training teaches people how to interact with each other.

“It’s about how you should talk to a person. If you cannot use that in a council meeting, I don’t know what’s the point of doing this every year,” he said.

He was on council for two years before, and has just rejoined this semester. He did the training during his first two years on council. “There’s always drama there, I just don’t see how it can connect,” he added.

Councillor Christiane Sakr disagrees.

“Consent training is different than a peer-to-peer mediation between [councillors]. I think what [Zhuang] wants is a team workshop,” she said.

“Consent training […] has to do with sexual assault and sexual violence and addressing that issue,” she continued. “While it does address how we interact with each other, it addresses how we interact with each other in terms […] of sexual consent.”

Most people that voted against or abstained were straight white men, said Sakr. This speaks directly to rape culture, she added.

“It’s hard because there are people in the room, like myself, who are sexual assault survivors. Being in that room isn’t easy,” she said.

“It’s frustrating that there is still a councillor on council who failed the consent training last year, and […] I haven’t seen anything addressing that, I haven’t seen any apology, any proof that they retook the consent training,” she added. In 2018, The Link reported that councillor James Hanna had “failed” consent training. However, he faced no repercussions as neither the CSU nor SARC had policies in place to deal with such a situation as there was no precedent. He was reelected in the last general election.

Councillor Mitchell Schecter voted for the motion to exempt people from the training.

“I only voted the way I did because in the CSU standing regulations it says if councillors do not do the training by Feb. 1 they are given two absences,” he said. A third absences would get them kicked off council.

If that was not the case, Schecter would have voted differently. He voted ‘for’ when voting for Jamet-Lange’s amendment to the motion.

Schecter thinks the in-person training was very similar to the online university one, but with a couple striking differences. Having someone in front of you made the lesson that much more impactful, and they had the opportunity to ask questions, something the online training doesn’t do.

“The CSU and the students should advocate for a mandatory in person seminar, so all the students of Concordia can have a more impactful experience,” he said.