Waiting for Consent on Consent Workshops

Dear Concordia University President Alan Shepard,

In the fall of 2012, volunteers for the Centre for Gender Advocacy (Centre 2110) facilitated consent workshops with the students living in Concordia’s Grey Nuns Residence. When Centre 2110 approached the Director of Residence Life the next year, they were told that it was not necessary to give the workshops, let alone make them mandatory. They were told it would be unfair to punish the students in residence with the workshops. They were told students could not be expected to pay attention for two hours.

At the end of 2014, you announced an internal review of Concordia’s sexual harassment policy. We do not know what this committee will recommend, when those recommendations will be made nor if any of these recommendations will be adopted. We do know that nowhere in Concordia’s current policy on harassment, sexual harassment and psychological harassment is there a mandate to provide training and education on matters of consent and the effects of sexual and gender-based violence.

While we wait to see what happens with the policy, as well as the outcomes of the Quebec Human Rights Commission Case filed against ASFA on the basis of sexual and racial harassment and discrimination, I appeal to you now to take action.

I am writing to ask that you recommend that all students who live in Concordia residences and all student leaders be required to attend a two-hour workshop once a year each September to talk about consent and sexual assault. This is just a first step, and of course, you can say, “no.”

I am writing to ask if you think having an open, honest discussion with students about consent and sexual assault is important. Of course, you can say, “no.”

I am writing to ask if you would help Concordia in setting an example for other Canadian Universities in fostering an environment where everyone feels safe. Of course, you can say, “no.”

Finally, I am writing to invite you to attend a workshop on consent and sexual assault before you say, “no.” You can pick the time, you can pick the place, you can participate or just observe. We are ready and you can say “yes.”

Tessa Liem
Volunteer, Centre for Gender Advocacy / A Safer Concordia