Highly reported ASFA sexual harassment case settled in favour of Mei Ling
An infamous case of online sexual violence, misogynistic slurs, sexually graphic insults, degrading sexual imagery and racism has been settled between the Concordia student using the pseudonym Mei Ling and the Arts and Science Faculty Association.
The settlement includes an undisclosed amount of monetary compensation and an official apology according to the press release sent out by the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, or CRARR.
Mei Ling said she settled with ASFA because the new executives have a different culture than the two individuals she said she won’t be settling with. While ASFA’s culture may have changed this year in the hands of a team willing to take steps to prevent this from happening again, turnover rates in student government are incredibly high. Who knows who what type of culture will be in power in three year’s time? Mei Ling’s continued pursuit of the two men most directly responsible for spreading racism and misogyny will hopefully result in major, long-term changes—changes that last beyond a 12-month mandate.
Major changes might come from one of the conditions of the settlement, where ASFA agreed to create an independent task force.
This task force would host Concordia members who are knowledgeable about the laws surrounding sexual violence, human rights, and other similar laws, as well as external experts and representatives. This task force is charged with assessing “the issues raised by this complaint including, but not limited to (i) violence and discrimination against women and minorities within student associations and other university bodies, and (ii) means for ensuring that complaints related to these issues are processed thoroughly and expediently in future cases,” according to CRARR’s press release. The task force will also create solid ways “to develop and implement measures to ensure that members of the ASFA and Concordia community, and women in particular, can learn, work, and be involved in campus life free of civil rights violations and violence in all its forms.”
This task force seems to be working to ensure students who try reaching out with their complaints are not turned away like Mei Ling was in March, as reported by The Concordian. Mei Ling approached Andrew Woodall, the Dean of Students, who was unable to help her because the Facebook chat was technically “private” and outside of the university’s domain.
So the good news is Mei Ling has reached a settlement, and ASFA is creating an independent task force.
It’s a big step in the right direction when the school starts openly speaking about sexual harassment and violence issues at the university and starts organizing public lectures such as this month’s Talking Out Loud guest lecturer Julie Lalonde who spoke about consent and the power of bystander intervention.
But this begs the question: why now? Did it really take a highly publicized sexual harassment case in the school’s largest faculty association for the university to change its policies?
Granted, president Alan Shepard launched a review of Concordia’s Sexual Assault policy in December 2014, months before news about Mei Ling’s case broke. The report was published this August and called for the school to stop calling people “victims” and start using more empowering language, such as “survivor.”
But Concordia is still unwilling to implement mandatory consent workshops for all incoming students, and is leaving it up to the CSU and other student groups to brief their incoming “Launchies.”
While ASFA launch week organizers attempted to put a big emphasis on the introduction of consent workshops, the week was highly unorganized and the workshops ended up being sprung on unsuspecting Launchees according to Lydia Anderson, our Co-arts editor and ASFA launch leader. The intentions were good, but bringing Launchees in for a barbecue and treating them to an unannounced two-hour workshop was the wrong way to educate the incoming students, said Anderson.
This is the perfect example of why Concordia should use its superior resources to create mandatory consent workshops that are advertised to and enjoyed by students.
In May, Concordia president Alan Shepard released a statement where he admitted the university was still “grappling with ways to deal with unacceptable behaviour with this new [social media and online] reality,” but at the Bystander Intervention talk Lalonde was very clear that online violence is still a crime, adding “the way in which we talk about this shapes what we do about it,” in an interview with The Concordian.