The standing committee responsible for combatting sexual violence on campus remains highly unpopular Amongst the student body
Debates raged at the Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) regular council meeting (RCM) on Jan. 11, over the ongoing boycott of the University’s Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence (SMSV) as student representatives discussed potential solutions to end sexual misconduct on campus.
The boycott dates back to October 5, 2022, when the CSU, alongside the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) and the Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia (TRAC) formally withdrew from the SMSV.
The action came after years of criticism from members of the SMSV and from the student body at large over the committee’s lack of transparency and failure to support survivors of sexual assault.
The conversation was sparked after it came to light that multiple candidates had been appointed to the SMSV during an appointments committee meeting last December. This action, if passed, would have ended the CSU’s ongoing boycott of the SMSV.
Fawaz Halloum, general coordinator of the CSU, explained the reason behind the appointments committee’s decision at the RCM on Jan. 11. According to Halloum, the decision was made in response to Lisa White, executive director of the Equity Office at Concordia University and chair of the SMSV, who was threatening to appoint students to the committee without the CSU’s consent.
“I find it very troubling because it takes a lot from our power as a union,”Said Halloum.
After consulting with a legal expert, Halloum said he was advised that the best course of action would be to appoint students to the SMSV — either to ensure the CSU maintains a voice on the committee, or to continue the protest by having committee members refuse to show up.
The proposed nomination was met with harsh criticism from many in attendance at last week’s RCM.
TRAC’s bargaining officer Mya Walmsley called the move “disgraceful.” Walmsley believes that the concessions the University’s offered in response to end the dispute was not made with the students body’s best interests, but rather to legitimise the SMSV’s poor track record.
“Obviously [the administration is] going to try to get you back with honey [rather than vinegar],” said Walmsley. “Promising these sorts of vague and nonspecific concessions is the way to do it.”
Walmsley asserted that, due to the current circumstances, the best course of action would be to further escalate the conflict to press their demands.
“We have the power now, we have the opportunity to talk to Lisa White whenever we want, we just don’t have to do it through the committee [SMSV],” said Walmsley.
“The argument that we gain more power by ending the boycott is absurd. It’s like giving up power will give us more power.”Said Wamsley.
The CSU’s External Affairs Coordinator Julianna Smith presented a motion which was passed to reject the appointment committee’s nomination to continue the boycott.
However, CSU counsellor Mohamad Abdallah spoke out against continuing the boycott. He questioned the purpose of an indefinite boycott and argued that the decision was harming students.
“How is this boycott harming [the administration] more than it is harming us by preventing us from representation? They have already appointed new people on that committee,” said Abdallah.
Abdallah also challenged the idea that those in favour of ending the boycott were, in essence, supporting the current policies that are in place.
“Our goal is the same at the end of the day, but we are taking different roads to reach the same goal, which is to change these policies regarding sexual violence and sexual harrassment in the University,” said Abdallah.
Nevertheless, Abdallah’s position remained unpopular amongst CSU councillors. The boycott of the SMSV will continue into the foreseeable future.