Complaints filed against two creative writing professors

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

Jon Paul Fiorentino and David McGimpsey named in third-party probe after sexual misconduct allegations

A labour lawyer hired by Concordia University to conduct a third-party investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct in the school’s creative writing program has received complaints against two Concordia part-time instructors, according to CBC News.

Jon Paul Fiorentino and David McGimpsey were both named by investigator Catherine Maheu as being the subjects of complaints. According to CBC News, Maheu was hired by the university earlier this year to probe allegations of widespread sexual misconduct and abuse of power in Concordia’s creative writing program. Her name had not yet been made public by the university.

CBC News obtained an audio recording in which Maheu outlines her role in the investigation. “What you need to understand is that what I am doing is complaint-driven,” she said in the recording, “which means that there are complaints that were filed against Dr. McGimpsey and Professor—or Mr.—Fiorentino.”

Although Fiorentino and McGimpsey were originally scheduled to teach this semester, their classes have been reassigned while the allegations against them are being investigated. Concordia president Alan Shepard told The Concordian on Feb. 15 that professors are not allowed to teach while they’re under investigation.

The complaints come after a wave of blog posts, articles, tweets and Facebook posts were written in January criticizing the culture in Concordia’s creative writing program and the broader Canadian literary community. Current and former students have criticized the university for not acting sooner on allegations of sexual misconduct.

In 2014, Concordia graduate Emma Healey published a personal essay in which she discussed an abusive relationship she had with one of her professors. Similar claims of sexual misconduct were also brought directly to the chair of the English department in February 2015, when six students wrote a formal complaint detailing the program’s toxic culture.

In January, former Concordia creative writing student Mike Spry created a blog called “Canlit Accountable” in which he recounted how Concordia students who wished to make a name for themselves in the Canadian literary scene were exploited by their professors. In the wake of his piece, current and former Concordia students have denounced abuses of power in the creative writing program and demanded the university address the issue of student-staff relationships.

The university responded by commissioning an independent investigator to look into the complaints against professors and announced a climate review to assess the culture of Concordia’s English department. Additionally, the university is putting together a task force to consult with members of the community and review Concordia’s current sexual misconduct policies.

On Feb. 28, Joyland, an online magazine that publishes short stories, announced on Facebook that it would be removing Fiorentino’s work from its website and would consider doing the same for McGimpsey.

“As writers, as women, as survivors, reading about the culture at Concordia has been heart-wrenching,” the post read. “But Joyland is a writing community, not an institution, and our strength is that we can listen to each other and change.”

Concordia refused to comment on the investigation into Fiorentino and McGimpsey.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

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