CSU, GSA and TRAC withdraw from Concordia’s Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence

Becca Wilgosh, Vice President of TRAC, at last week’s press conference. CATHERINE REYNOLDS/The Concordian

Three student organizations — the Concordia Student Union (CSU), the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), and the Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia (TRAC) union — announced their withdrawal from the University’s Policy Advisory Committee on sexual violence on Oct.5. 

During their press conference outside of the Hall building, student representatives announced their decision to no longer participate in Concordia’s Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence due to ignored demands and mishandled complaints. 

The committee is made up of students, staff, and faculty with the goal of raising awareness to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual violence on campus.

Alan Shepard, President of Concordia between 2012-19, announced the establishment of the task force on sexual misconduct and sexual violence in Jan. 2018, following several harassment allegations within the University’s Creative Writing program. 

Since then, student representatives like Vice President of TRAC Becca Wilgosh have shared their disappointment in the lack of transparency and resources for students. 

“We’ve talked a couple of times about how complainants’ survivors in the University don’t even receive the results of their case, especially when that case is regarding faculty,” said Wilgosh. 

“And the University is more concerned with their reputation, especially when it comes to faculty than actually giving justice to students,” she added. 

Margot Berner, a past student representative in the standing committee, read the statement at last week’s press conference, describing Concordia’s policy processes as ‘hostile to students.’ 

Berner also explained that the required non-disclosure agreements to participate in the committee prove a lack of transparency towards student organizations. 

“Non-disclosure agreements work directly against our mandates of transparency, accountability, and accessibility to information,” read the statement. 

Another reason that was provided for the collective withdrawal was the lack of student representation. Only four of the 15 committee members are students, representing only slightly less than a third of the active student body. Berner also highlighted that the final authority on the sexual violence policy remains at the discretion of the Board of Governors. 

“With most decisions taken behind closed doors or through coercive consensus, the student representative positions in actuality remain simply observational rather than representative,” Berner added. 

During his speech, Nelson Graves, a TRAC delegate for the philosophy department, claimed the department has a history of sexual violence. 

Graves recalls an instance wherein two teaching assistants (TAs) were recently assigned to one individual who has allegedly perpetuated sexual violence amongst his female TAs. 

Additionally, Graves spoke about another situation in which an international student felt humiliated by the lack of awareness from the University about the sexual misconduct allegations.

“We’re working with TRAC Union to better expand our campaign, and we are interested to see how the University responds to this larger campaign,” concluded Graves.

Payton Mitchell, communications coordinator for the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA), was also present at the press conference. 

“Concordia’s sloppy process and refusal to approach problems with a student-centred and solution-oriented mindset have hindered accessibility to fully support our own membership,” said Mitchell. 

The CSU, GRA, TRAC and ASFA have no plans to return to the standing committee in the foreseeable future unless major changes regarding transparency are implemented. 

The three organizations will work closely together to raise awareness and support students who are mistreated. 

“We actually believe that we would do a better job of leading, beginning the discussions about what the sexual violence response should be in the University because we don’t have these institutional restraints that the University faces,” said Wilgosh.

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