Internal harassment policy under revision; power dynamics training for executives to be implemented
The Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) voted on March 8 to approve a new mandate for its discrimination task force in response to the recent sexual misconduct allegations in Concordia’s English department.
The task force’s first mandate was established in September 2016, an action required by the terms of a 2015 settlement of a Quebec Human Rights Commission complaint filed against ASFA by a former executive using the pseudonym Mei Ling.
The complaint alleged the executive had been a victim of race and gender-based discrimination during her mandate, and the settlement stipulated that ASFA establish a task force to deal with these types of discrimination complaints at Concordia.
In January, the federation approved an ad hoc mandate for the task force so it could quickly respond to revelations of sexual misconduct by instructors in Concordia’s creative writing program and make recommendations on how ASFA should respond.
During a task force meeting on Feb. 26, it was revealed that its name would have to be changed to include racial discrimination, based on advice from ASFA’s legal counsel, in order to meet criteria established by the 2015 settlement. It was also decided that the ad hoc mandate set up to respond to the English department allegations would be combined with the 2016 mandate to create one unified mandate. Motions for both changes were passed at the March 8 council meeting.
“The task force has always and will continue to address the issues mandated within the settlement, but will also now cover sexual violence and misconduct,” ASFA council chairperson Rory James told The Concordian.
The new mandate states the task force will address issues raised in the original Mei Ling human rights complaint and “implement concrete steps to prevent racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination within the university.” The stated goal of these steps is to foster a culture that ensures everyone at Concordia can “seek assistance within the university that caters to the individual’s best interests.”
The mandate lists four steps to be taken immediately to achieve those goals. They include revising ASFA’s harassment policy and implementing power dynamics training for ASFA executives as well as incoming arts and science faculty students who participate in Freshmen Orientation Week.
The task force will also work with the larger Concordia student body to advocate for the implementation of recommendations made in Our Turn, a student report published in October 2017 that gave Concordia a D minus grade for its sexual assault policies.
Margot Berner, the newly established co-chair of the task force, reported to council on March 8 that the task force has, so far, devoted most of its time to revising ASFA’s internal harassment policy.
The task force is also working on developing a new safe space policy for ASFA’s community spaces, which would establish when a Member Association can bar someone from their space if they decide the person’s behaviour is inappropriate.
“Our aim is to make ASFA a little more responsible for our community spaces, for making them safe spaces,” Berner said, adding that the task force is working with their lawyers to develop this policy.
Photo by Mackenzie Lad