Students continue to demand better sexual violence policies at Concordia

Over 30 students gathered to denounce SMSV and demand gender equity, fair pay and more student and worker-centric policies

ITFA members speaking to demonstrators. Photo Maria Cholakova

On March 8, International Women’s Day, over two dozen students— as well as several student organizations on campus— gathered to protest Concordia’s “continued inaction on complaints of sexual violence and gender inequity at the university,” per ITFA’s press release

The protest was backed by the Inter-organizational Table for Feminist Affairs (ITFA), the Concordia Student Union (CSU), Concordia Graduate Student Association, Concordia Research and Education Workers Union (CREW), Sex and Self Concordia, the Centre for Gender Advocacy, Concordia University Union of Support Staff - Technical Sector (CUUSS-TS), Concordia University Library Employees Union (CULEU), Concordia University Support Staff Union (CUSSU) and Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS). United; these groups represent all Concordia students and workers. 

ITFA was formed at the start of 2023, after trouble stirred within Concordia’s Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence (SMSV), which has been accused of being non-student-centric and unable to adequately deal with cases or listening to student complaints. 

During the demonstration, Hannah Jackson, the CSU’s external coordinator, listed ITFA’s demands in three points: transparency for sexual violence, fair pay and a better and safer campus for the LGBTQIA2S+ community. 

Jackson explained that for workers to be compensated fair pay, the university should ensure “an on-campus space for the subsidized daycare program. Dropping excuses for failing to complete legally required five-year pay equity maintenance on time. And meaningfully addressing the lack of parity between genders in pay with other universities.” 

“Concordia’s budget deficit should not be leveraged to keep the wages of teaching and support staff below market and inflation rates,” Jackson said. 

Jackson continued by demanding Concordia remove all security cameras from student bathrooms, establish gender-neutral single-stall facilities, simplify the student name change process and create inclusive athletic facilities. Additionally, she believes the university should implement a policy addressing gender-based violence, including transphobic, homophobic, or misogynistic actions, for grievances filed with the Office of Rights and Responsibilities.

Becca Wilgosh, a mobilization officer at CREW, also spoke about the number of issues students face due to the SMSV’s inaction, explaining that it takes months to years to resolve a labour or institutional dispute. “That means that people who have a problem in their workplace or their place of study basically don't get to have a resolution until they've already graduated or left. We have a right to safe work while we're still here,” Wilgosh said. 

Wilgosh also emphasized the importance of workers’ unions backing the demonstration. 

Later, Jackson listed the changes that need to be made by the standing committee. “[Sexual violence policies at Concordia are] completely not survivor-centric. It's all about protecting the university from liability,” she said. Jackson continued to explain that policies should be made following collective deliberation with student and worker approval. “The policy needs to center the control and consent of survivors at every step; account for power imbalances, inherent and institutional hierarchies offer greater transparency and clarity,” Jackson said in her speech. 

Once speeches from organizers concluded, demonstrators were handed a piece of paper. On the paper, was the picture of Nadia Hardy, the Deputy Provost and Vice-Provost of Enrolment and Student Experience, who is also the new Chair of the SMSV committee. The paper read “Wanted: Nadia Hardy,” with a list of demands, such as making changes to sexual violence policies with a student and worker-centric approach and protecting LGTBQIA2S+ students on campus. 

Protesters walked from the Hall building terrace to the GM building, where the papers were placed on the walls and elevators. 

Wanted posters of Nadia Hardy, the Chair of SMSV. Photo Maria Cholakova

On March 6, ITFA sent out an email, listing all their demands. 

In their statement, ITFA claims that “On Dec. 5, 2023, the SMSV Committee simply convened without any student presence at all. The new Chair of the SMSV, Nadia Hardy, claims that students are welcome back to the table any time, and insists that this invitation alone satisfies their legal obligation to consult with us.” 

“I’m not a fan of the closed-door policy within [SMSV] meetings, I would like to see more student-led initiatives, especially when it comes to sexual harassment,” said Raven Skyllas, a protester at the demonstration. 

According to Concordia’s spokesperson,  Hardy has invited ITFA to present its demands in person at the next SMSV meeting.