Sexual Harassment at Concordia

Female Student Allegedly Witnesses Groin Groping in SGW Library

Photo Geoffrey Vendeville.

TG had only been in Concordia’s downtown library for about half an hour on Sept. 25 before she said a man began touching himself inappropriately in an adjacent cubicle.

“I ran downstairs to the first floor of the library where the security post is located,” she told The Link last week.

“I was quite frazzled and shocked by the whole situation.”

She described the man as in his mid-30s, balding, with dark hair and glasses. She said he sat down mere minutes after she had arrived to read a graphic novel near her cubicle on the fourth floor of the Sir George Williams library.

Security Risk

TG said she returned to the Blue Zone, the library’s quiet zone, on the fourth floor with a security guard in toe.

The alleged perpetrator was still there, she continued.

“As I packed my bags to change locations immediately, the security guard was asking the man if he was a student here, to which he responded ‘no,’” she said.

“The guard told him that he would have to leave and then I quickly left them, so that was the last I heard or saw of them.”

TG says she followed up with Concordia security multiple times, filing a report the evening of the alleged incident.

She said it was at that time that she met a particularly sympathetic and insightful security guard.

“We discussed the fact that some men are repeat offenders here at Concordia, and some just do it once,” she recalled.

“When they catch the person, the way they did in my instance, they take a picture of the perpetrator and keep it for internal purposes.

“All guards are supposed to look at the images to be familiar with them,” she continued.

TG added that she was encouraged to go to the police, which she did two days later, but says she did not file a report.

Calls to Concordia Security Department director Jacques Lachance were not returned before press time, but university spokesperson Chris Mota told The Link that security personnel followed procedure in the incident involving TG.

According to Section 9, Article 116 of Concordia’s Code of Rights and Responsibilities, in urgent situations of threatening or violent behaviour the Security Department will “take whatever reasonable action is necessary to secure the safety of persons, and [will] immediately alert the [Advisor on Rights and Responsibilities],” who can initiate formal or informal complaints against the perpetrator—so long as they are Concordia staff, faculty or a student—based on the complainant’s wishes.

Article 13 of VPS-20, Concordia’s security policy, also states no person shall “engage in violent behaviour, threaten violence or engage in any other illegal behaviour on University premises.”

The policy indicates security is to respond to the situation as appropriate, but makes no mention of sexual assault or harassment, mentioning only violent behaviour.

Both Concordia’s Code of Rights and Responsibilities and HR-38, its policy on harassment, outline harassment as repeated or ongoing vexatious conducts. Sexual harassment, according to Article 28 of the code, is any form of this behaviour being performed in a sexual nature, up to and including sexual assault.

In their petition last year for a sexual assault centre on campus—which opened last week—the Centre for Gender Advocacy had called on Concordia to provide a distinction between sexual harassment and sexual assault, and to have them included in university policy.

Repeated but Irregular

TG said she’s heard of three other occurrences of similar sexual harassment at Concordia’s downtown library.

Two of the instances involved people she knew personally.

“If I know that many people that this has happented to, then how many more can there be? My guess: too many,” she said.

Mota told The Link that to her knowledge there have been three cases of sexual harassment this year.

“The university is a public access area. It is unfortunate that, albeit rarely, these incidents happen on campus, but these are instances that you would see on other areas of public access, in the transit system, in the parks, in what have you,” she said.

“It’s a very rare occurrence, but that being said we can’t diminish what a person feels and goes through when they are witness to such an act, or really are a target of such an act,” she continued.

“I’m certainly not diminishing it, but it is still uncommon, and I think that is something we need to remind our community about, and also to encourage anyone if they see inappropriate behaviour […] that they do seek out security people.”

But to TG, who said she was discouraged by police from filing a report after the fact and was instead told by an officer to call 911 immediately next time, what to do—at least from a student’s point of view—remains unclear.

“I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “And a clear protocol on how to follow-up on these incidents doesn’t seem to be in place, which then makes these occurrences all the more likely.”