Professor acquitted after complaints of alleged sexual harassment

Photo by Mia Anhoury

Concordia says it is in accordance with privacy laws

A Creative Writing professor in Concordia’s English department was cleared in September 2018 of the sexual harassment allegations filed by two former students, according to a recent report by CBC. The two former students, who filed the complaints in January 2018, reportedly learned of this exoneration through CBC two weeks ago.

Concordia University has still not confirmed if the professor was exonerated. University Spokesperson Fiona Downey said “we cannot divulge any information surrounding potential or actual investigations, including the results of any investigations or any other employment matters.”

The sexual assault allegations date back to events that happened at the university in the 1990s. The two former students’ complaints were filed around the same time that Mike Spry, a graduate from Concordia’s Creative Writing program, wrote a lengthy essay denouncing the toxic and misogynistic environment of the program.

Francis Bouchard, a spokesperson for the Minister of Education and Higher Education, Jean-François Roberge, told CBC it is “natural” to report results of an investigation to the person who filed the complaint. However, Downey said that Concordia contacted Quebec government officials and have been assured that they are complying with privacy and confidentiality legislation.

“We do understand this is particularly frustrating for the complainants who want to know the exact results, but this is the reality we face,” said Downey.

Downey said the university followed the guidelines established by the education department, which only requires them to inform complainants when an investigation has been completed. “I can tell you that you that we inform the complainants about the completion of an investigation,” said Downey. However, Concordia would not confirm if they did or did not inform the complainants in this case.

One of the complainants, Ibi Kaslik, a Toronto author, told CBC she tried getting updates on her complaints. Concordia would only tell her that the third-party investigator took the information presented to them and then the university reacted. Kaslik said she wanted to know about the outcome of the investigation, but kept hitting a wall.

Per the Act respecting Access to documents held by public bodies and the Protection of personal Information, no confidential information–including personal information–can be shared by a post-secondary institution to another person, including the person who filed the complaint. On the other hand, the institution can contact the plaintiff to see how they would like to move forward.

Downey said these practices are also reiterated in the university’s updated sexual violence policy. The university will release a climate review of the English department sometime in the winter semester. It is mandated to collect information from students, staff, faculty, and alumni about the culture and climate of the department through third-party experts.

Two English professors are still under a third-party investigation for unrelated sexual misconduct allegations as well, which were also filed at the same time last year.

In a statement to The Concordian, Downey said the Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence has been discussing with the university what could be implemented to provide further support for complainants. Downey added that the committee is also in the process of creating a step-by-step guide for complainants.

The university is currently in the process of implementing Bill 151, an Act to prevent and fight sexual violence in higher education institutions. The university has until Sept. 1, 2019 to fully implement the bill’s requirements. Additionally, the committee is planning on meeting with other post-secondary institutions in May, as it did in November 2018, to discuss the implementation of Bill 151.

Meanwhile, the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence continues its community conversations. Undergraduate students are invited to the next community conversations, which will be on March 28 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Grey Nuns Building, and on May 24 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in PC 2.115.

Graphic by Loreanna Lastoria.

With Files from Candice Pye, Matthew Lapierre and Étienne Lajoie.

Photo by Mia Anhoury and Graphic by Loreanna Lastoria.

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