Alan Shepard says university often does not assign classes to staff under investigation
Concordia president Alan Shepard discussed public concerns about the investigation of the university’s creative writing program and the creation of the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence in a press briefing on Feb. 15.
In early January, courses taught by two creative writing instructors, whose names have not been publicized, were reassigned after accusations of sexual abuse and misconduct within the program circulated on social media. Although these instructors have not been teaching since the investigation began, Shepard could not confirm whether they will be assigned any classes in the upcoming summer and fall semesters, citing legal reasons. However, he did mention the university’s typical response to staff investigations.
“In general terms, if someone’s not teaching because they’re under investigation, they typically wouldn’t return to teaching while they’re still under investigation,” Shepard said. “If somebody’s under investigation, then they’re under investigation, and we don’t mix and match.”
The president also clarified that the investigation is only reviewing the actions of certain instructors and concerns about the atmosphere in the English department, and not the university as a whole. However, he said the sexual misconduct task force, to be made up of both staff and students, will be reviewing policies that affect all faculties and departments.
“The task force is a general review of the policies and procedures, a kind of environmental scan,” Shepard said. “Whether there will be any other [department investigations] will be something we’ll determine after we have done the work of the task force.”
Bomb threat: One year later
Shepard praised the university’s response to the bomb threat made on March 1, 2017, when Islamophobic letters were sent to multiple media outlets, and three of Concordia’s downtown campus buildings were evacuated.
“The Concordia community handled that episode well, particularly our security services […] which is really important in that kind of civic emergency,” Shepard said.
Coming up on the one-year anniversary, the incident has recaptured the public’s attention with the trial of Hashim Saadi, a former Concordia doctorate student who was arrested in connection with the threat. Saadi’s trial is currently on hold while he undergoes a psychiatric evaluation.
Although the university reviewed its safety guidelines following the threat, it was decided there would be no policy changes.
“Whenever we have a major incident, we always do a so-called post-mortem,” Shepard said. “We felt like our policies and our practices work well, but it’s important to learn from every instance like this.”
Concordia is now subscribed to an emergency response app called Alertus, which immediately notifies app users about emergencies at the university.
“I have it on my phone, and I recommend everyone have it on their phone,” Shepard said. “In the event that we have some terrible thing unfolding, God forbid, we can send a message.”
Graphic by Zeze Le Lin