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ASFA responds to English department sexual assault scandal

by Ian Down January 23, 2018
ASFA responds to English department sexual assault scandal

Concordia Association for Students in English criticizes lack of consultation by federation

The Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) discussed its plan of action to respond to the English department’s sexual assault scandal in a regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, Jan. 18.

The federation moved to create a committee, chaired by councilor Taran Singh, which will make recommendations for measures to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation within the Faculty of Arts and Science. The committee will be composed of several councillors, including Concordia Association for Students in English (CASE) president Debby Gemme and three ASFA executives: president Jonathan Roy, vice-president internal Rachael Hutchinson and vice-president external Bianca Bruzzese.

The committee will have the power to make edits to ASFA’s official statement on the recent sexual assault scandal within Concordia’s English department before it is released. Gemme criticized ASFA’s executive team for not consulting CASE on the first draft of the statement. “We think there’s a lot in there that’s problematic,” she said to Roy during the meeting.

“We simply want to ensure that student associations are putting out a united and consistent message conducive to concrete change,” Gemme told The Concordian.

CASE has released its own official statement, calling for the English department to apologize for its “dismissal” of previous allegations, ensure that the third party investigating the allegations is transparent and communicates effectively with students, and update current school policies to address possible abuses of power by faculty, among other things.

ASFA will also participate in a larger task force overseen by the university’s administration. At the council meeting, Roy commented on his Jan. 15 meeting with dean of students Andrew Woodall and deputy provost Lisa Ostiguy, who will be coordinating an assessment of the university’s environment.

“We will be working together hand-in-hand. Not just ASFA and the administration, but we’re gonna try to reach out to all the other faculty associations and work with the Concordia Student Union so that we can create a task force to essentially look at the way sexual harassment and misconduct and such happens at Concordia,” he said.

Although Roy told The Concordian that the details about this task force have yet to be released, he told council that ASFA will advocate for mandatory consent training for all faculty and staff and the promotion of sexual assault resources on all course outlines.

Roy also met with the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, André Roy, on Jan. 12, who he said is committed to implementing “preventative measures and resources to ensure that institutional changes will be made to ensure the continual safety of our students.” These measures include “policy change, workshop implementation and educational/informational campaigns.”

Gemme also criticized Jonathan Roy for not consulting CASE before these meetings with high-level faculty.

“We would have liked to have been consulted,” she said. “The executives, but also the student body that we represent, really would have had a lot to say.”

Roy said that he had met with the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science to discuss a different issue, and had not planned to discuss the allegations of sexual assault. He did not consult CASE prior to his meeting with Woodall and Ostiguy because the two were scheduled to have a separate meeting with CASE.

“From now on, whenever we have any correspondence with either the dean of students or the dean of arts and science, we will be contacting you, and we will try to coordinate something,” the ASFA president told Gemme during council.

Photo by Alex Hutchins

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