ITFA breaks their silence on sexual violence at Concordia

The panelists of the Feminist Workplace convention answering students’ questions. Photo by Marieke Glorieux-Stryckman / The Concordian

How the anti-sexual violence group is using their voices to change a broken system.

The Inter-organizational Table for Feminist Affairs (ITFA), an organization composed of student members of Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia (TRAC), Concordia Student Union (CSU), and Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), attended the second annual Student Feminist convention on Friday Aug. 25 in Concordia’s Hall building, continuing to use their voices as a weapon of hope to prevent sexual violence on Concordia grounds. 

The convention encompasses promoting a healthy academic and working environment for Concordia students through lectures and engaging discussions between union members. 

In Feb. 2023, the Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence (SMSV) prevented ITFA from joining discussions on sexual violence prevention at the university, leading ITFA to boycott their silencing. Since the boycott, Concordia University Support Staff Union (CUSSU), and the Centre for Gender Advocacy (CGA) have joined ITFA in their fight. 

Becca Wilgosh is a PhD geography student, one of the co-founders of the Feminist Workplace Committee (FWC) and founder of ITFA. She refuses to stay quiet in a corner where she is not able to properly stand up for her beliefs. 

“We cannot rightfully participate in this committee where we’re not heard, where we’re just legitimizing what they’re doing with our presence and we have no actual leverage to change things there,” said Wilgosh. 

Since then, the SMSV refused to hear ITFA’s important decisions and discussions of anti-sexual violence prevention. 

On March 8, FWC protested the university’s lack of transparency towards sexual violence on campus and a work ban againgst a philosophy professor accused of harassing TA’s. Our Turn national plan, a student led movement to end sexual violence on campuses, rated Concordia a D- for their lack of care when handling such cases. Wilgosh does not want a case or issue to go unnoticed, regardless of how much time has gone by since the event happened. 

“We revived an old struggle basically and we decided that we needed to formalize this a little bit in order to keep it moving and to have institutional memory. We did that by creating ITFA,” said Wilgosh. 

The union members are discussing the ways to build feminist workplaces at Concordia. Photo by Marieke Glorieux-Stryckman / The Concordian

Hannah Jamet-Lange is a second-year Masters student in media studies, FWC and ITFA member and former SMSV member. SMSV members are required to sign an NDA and according to Jamet-Lange, the NDA’s serve to protect the university’s reputation rather than the victims’ identities who come forward. Jamet-Lange witnessed the SMSV unfortunately silencing victims.

“The administration who sits on this committee has been actively silencing students that are sitting on the committee by not letting them speak in zoom meetings,” they said.

They also related their own time as a member of SMSV: “I remember that myself being on the committee and students would really talk about their own experiences and the harm that they’ve experienced at the university, and administrators would just be rolling their eyes. The whole environment would be very hostile to students.” 

Wilgosh and Jamet-Lange are choosing their voices, morals, and their fight over anything else. They are hoping ITFA can help them break the silence.

“We’re demanding and building an alternative at the same time; that’s the opposite of neglect,” said Wilgosh. 

ITFA is continuing on their second year and are hoping their fight stays strong for the future of the university.

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