Arts Arts and Culture Student Life

Poetry Spotlight: Jessica Wood

Jessica Wood is a second-year in creative writing student at Concordia University. A writer her whole life, she particularly enjoys writing creative non-fiction, poetry, and autofiction.

Originally from Vancouver Island, BC, she has been in Montreal for a year and a half and has loved every minute of it. This is the first publication of her writing, and she hopes it will be the first of many.

Graphic by Maya Robitaille-Lopez

In the Dead of Winter (I Can Feel Okay Again!)


in the dead of winter I can feel okay again. 

this week is already better! I’m tentatively hopeful, and defiantly confident that 

in the dead of winter, I can feel okay again. 

sure, my heating bill is higher than my friends, who warm their hands on a shared joint, shivering together like molecules as they puff and pass. 

and even though I don’t smoke, I’m standing out there too 

in the dead of winter. I can feel okay again! 

even though 

-my laundry freezes on the walk home (the laundromat dryers eat my quarters and spit out no hot air in return) 

-there’s salt water rings around my boots (I am using all of my towels to block off drafty windows) 

-I have to shovel the stairs if I want to get groceries (I pretend I’m a penguin, imploring myself to laugh when I slip on the sidewalk) 

I am hopeful. and I am confident. 

in the dead of winter, I can feel okay again.

Jessica Wood


Créatique: Connecting Creative Practices and Research

On Feb. 16, the English Department of Concordia University launched Créatique, an event featuring a discussion with PhD students about their creative writing and research practices

I attended this gathering held inside the Richler Library seminar room, located in the LB Building of Concordia University. The evening’s host, professor Jason Camlot, gave me more insight into the origins and the objectives of Créatique

Initially, he noticed that there were a high number of talented poets who were pursuing PhDs in the English and Humanities departments. In the Creative Writing program, students study literature, so they have to explore the connection between literary creation, literary criticism and reflection.

“We thought it could be useful and interesting to have a forum where they could talk about the relationship between their creative practice and their research practice,” said Camlot.

This is an opportunity for people who are not familiar with poetry to learn more about creative processes. At each event, two research artists are invited to read from their work, reflect on it critically and explain their process of incorporating themes and concepts into their writing.

Charlotte Wetton, an AHRC-funded (Arts in Health Research Collective) PhD candidate from the University of Manchester, and Professor Alexei Perry Cox of Concordia’s English Department were the two speakers last week.

Wetton’s poetry focuses on labour, more specifically the impact of gender roles and social class in society. Her creative work addresses concepts from eighteenth-century literature. Wetton’s passion for poetry began when she read novels as a child. The pleasure of reading sparked a curiosity about finding the proper words to express herself.

“When I started writing, it was just so satisfying to find the right words to express something, capture moments and experiences,” revealed Wetton in an interview after the event.

When she began her career, Wetton was unable to find many poems about labour. She decided to spark meaningful conversations about work that were lacking in literature in her opinion.

“Actually, I always feel very nervous before readings. Reading any kind of creative work puts you in a vulnerable place. But when I start, I feel very confident because these are the words that I’ve committed to paper and I enjoy sharing them,” she added.

Professor Cox’s creative work focuses on nationalism, immigration, liberation, and the search for identity, among other subjects. Cox’s curiosity about life and finding ways to escape reality with art fuels her passion. We spoke about her experience that evening and ambitions about poetry.

“I love being in the thrill of it and feeling that exchange of energy with the folks who are present,” said Cox.

“As an academic and creative writer, you’re able to gather and bring ideas together. Those ideas can then become more expansive through activism and have impact daily on larger conversations, especially in terms of policy-making,” she said.


Just because it’s a law, doesn’t mean it’s right

Last year, during a series of sexual misconduct allegations from within the Creative Writing department at Concordia, two students filed complaints against a professor, alleging that they were harassed in the 1990s. According to CBC News, this professor is still employed at the university and was exonerated by Concordia of all allegations in September 2018. According to the same source, one of the complainants, Ibi Kaslik, only learned of this through a reporter at CBC at the beginning of this month.

Over the past year, Kaslik tried to remain updated about the complaint and was told by Concordia Associate Vice-President for Human Resources, Carolina Willsher, last month that “the investigator collected the information, presented it to the university, and the university reacted […] That’s all I can tell you,” according to CBC News. The university has been citing privacy concerns as the reason behind their lack of transparency. The Concordian has learned that by not informing the complainants of the results of the investigation, Concordia is following privacy laws, specifically the A-2.1 Act respecting Access to documents held by public bodies and the Protection of personal information.

Essentially, in this type of case, no personal information can be shared by an educational institution––even to the person who filed the complaint in the first place. However, the institution is allowed to tell the complainants that the investigation ended. Concordia hasn’t confirmed if they did or did not inform Kaslik and the other complainant of the investigation’s closure. But considering that the complainants only learned of the professor’s exoneration through CBC News, it’s clear to us that the university didn’t inform them of this decision when it happened in September.

While we do acknowledge that Concordia is acting in accordance to privacy laws, it doesn’t excuse the fact that the university’s administration wasn’t as transparent as it could have been, especially in its communication with the complainants. These laws are not survivor-centric, as they restrict those who complain from taking part in the discussions and decisions that will ultimately affect their lives. These complainants should have a right to know what happens to those they complain about––and Concordia shouldn’t sit idly by and claim it’s just following protocol. We believe they should step forward and do something to change this situation. Not only will it show that they’re on the side of the victims, but it will also allow those who want to speak out feel supported.

Just because you’re following a law doesn’t mean you’re doing the right thing. Even though Concordia has enlisted a Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence, created guidelines that discourage sexual relationships between educators and students, and conducted a climate review of the English department, its actions are half-hearted, and the administration’s words hold no value. We need to see concrete change taking place at Concordia. We need to see the university respect and uplift victims’ voices. We need to see this institution protect its students, rather than its abusive educators. Stringing together a few words that excuse Concordia’s actions in PR statements isn’t good enough.

We at The Concordian would also like to note that this is a similar tactic used in 1969, when six black students at Sir George Williams University accused professor Perry Anderson of racism. The university didn’t communicate to the students about how their complaint was being handled, and Concordia exonerated the professor after concluding that nothing could support the racism claims, according to Toronto Star. He later continued his academic career. Rodney John, one of the six students, told Toronto Star that Concordia’s failure to address such bias was at the base of the incident: “It was mishandled from beginning to end.”

Mishandled. A key word here. We at The Concordian hope that the fight against sexual assault, harassment, and injustice at Concordia doesn’t end with the recent exoneration of the professor. Concordia shouldn’t be patting itself on the back. Yes, you followed the law and were not required to divulge the details of what happened to the complainant. But you could have informed them of the end of the investigation, at the very least. As a powerful institution, you aren’t doing enough. We demand more.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin


“I want some accountability from this institution”

Former Concordia student files human rights complaint against Concordia University

More than two months since the start of the investigation into sexual abuse and misconduct allegations against creative writing instructors, another Concordia professor has been accused of sexual harassment.

A former student, who wished to be identified by the pseudonym “Alya,” filed a human rights complaint with Montreal’s Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) after enduring what she considered to be repeated sexual harassment from a professor in the philosophy department.

Alya not only claims she was subjected to sexual harassment, but that the university did not take sufficient action despite years of discussing her experiences with faculty members, deputy provost Lisa Ostiguy and the university’s Office of Rights and Responsibilities (ORR). In her complaint, Alya said she is seeking $60,000 in damages from the university, and is requesting that Concordia take sanctions against the accused professor and “address the systemic failings of its sexual violence and sexual harassment policies” within the next six months.

“I want some accountability from this institution,” Alya said. “I want this to not happen to other people. It’s not fair. It’s not okay.”

The initial abuse

Alya claims she met the professor in 2008 when he was teaching a mandatory first-year course for students in the philosophy department. When he first began to show an interest in her outside of the classroom, she hoped it would lead to a friendly student-teacher relationship.

From her perspective, what happened instead was “creepy” and blatant harassment. He began to email her repeatedly, often late at night, inviting her to concerts and out for drinks. In one of his emails, the professor wrote he could “get you drinking Scotch and [sic] Dancing!!!!”, despite Alya telling him she did not drink. In another email, he wrote: “I could always slip some vodka into your pop when you weren’t looking.”

Alya alleges that, on two occasions, the professor invited her out under the guise of meeting with master’s students, but when she arrived at the bar, it was only the professor and another female student, who Alya said she believes also experienced harassment.

Feeling powerless and violated, Alya said the harassment drove her to discontinue her studies at Concordia and leave Montreal before completing her second semester to pursue a summer job.

“Even now, if I see someone that resembles him, it freaks me out,” Alya said. “I haven’t gone into the philosophy department since then […] There was no way in hell I was going to step foot in the philosophy department again with that man still working there.”

Nine years, no action

According to Alya, the allegations outlined in her complaint should come as no surprise to university administration. Since the spring of 2009, Alya said she has discussed her experiences with university officials, including deputy provost Lisa Ostiguy and former ombudsperson Kristen Robillard. Yet, according to Alya, she was bounced around “like a ball in a pinball machine.”

Alya first reached out to the ORR in May 2009, with the hope of being able to hand in and receive credit for assignments she did not finish when she left Concordia before the end of the semester. Alya said the ORR asked her to contact the then-chair of the philosophy department, Matthias Fritsch.

For the course taught by the accused professor, Fritsch granted her an extension and arranged for the outstanding coursework to be marked by an independent grader. However, Fritsch denied her request for an extension on work for two other courses she did not complete, telling her via email that her argument that she felt too uncomfortable to be in the department was “insufficient” and her decision to leave Montreal was made “at [her] own discretion.”

In the same email, Fritsch also recommended Alya speak to her other professors about extensions, but cautioned her that it “would be best not to mention the harassment case, as it is confidential and also […] an insufficient reason.” Alya did not tell her other professors about the harassment and failed both courses.

When she returned to Concordia to take classes outside of the philosophy department in December 2014, Alya reached out to Gregory Lavers, the then-interim chair of the philosophy department, about removing her failed courses from her transcript. He referred her back to the ORR, where she was told she had waited too long to file a complaint with the university. She was then referred to Robillard. Despite filing a complaint with the then-ombudsperson, Alya never received a response, even after she called to follow up.

One of many Concordia complaints

Currently employed in the tattoo industry, Alya said that, when she began her studies at Concordia nearly 10 years ago, she had been hoping for a career in academia. Although her transcript was altered in 2017 to change her failed marks to “discontinued,” Alya said her lowered GPA had already cost her opportunities, including rejection from a McGill education program.

Despite filing the complaint on her own, Alya insists she is not the only woman who faced harassment from this professor. As a student, she suspected some of her female peers were also being targeted, and she claims she once spoke to the ORR on behalf of another student making allegations against the professor. She also said she discovered a number of female students avoided taking courses taught by this professor because of his reputation of being inappropriate.

In October 2017, encouraged by the #MeToo movement and the subsequent investigation into Concordia’s own creative writing program, Alya decided to reach out to CRARR and file a complaint.

“With the Me Too thing, I thought, ‘Oh, wow, people can actually do something about what happened.’ This exact thing happened to me, and no one did anything,” Alya said. “I thought, ‘Okay, I have to do something.’”

Although the current investigation being conducted by deputy provost Lisa Ostiguy is focused on Concordia’s English department and creative writing program, there have been multiple complaints filed against the university in recent years. According to Fo Niemi, the executive director of CRARR, the organization has taken on six human rights complaints against the university, four of which are still being considered by Quebec’s Human Rights Commission.

“We believe, in the end, someone at the institution has to be held accountable,” Niemi said.

“We want to pinpoint, specifically, the president and the board of directors […] Ultimately, the president, Alan Shepard, has to be held accountable.”

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

Student Life

A reckless journey to freedom

They are young, and they escaped with nothing to lose and everything to gain

We were only 14 years old, living in a group home in the deserted mining town of Gardnerville, Nevada.

My mother left Nelson because he has always been a drunk. She left when I was only two years old. Whenever I asked about her, Nelson never gave me a straight answer. He was either too drunk to recall or too hurt to admit that he had no idea where she was. Nelson promised he would stop drinking after she left. But he never even tried. My mother didn’t bother to take me with her. She left me with his drunken madness.

I remember the unbearable feeling of coming home after school to our one-bedroom apartment on Melrose Avenue. Opening the door and smelling a strong stench reeking of piss and cheap beer with Nelson lying on the mattress. He would often piss himself in his sleep because he was too drunk or unconscious to make his way to the bathroom. He snored to the sound of indistinct chatter coming from the television, the soundtrack of my afternoons.

My room had a blue blanket on the floor with a picture of my mother hung up on the wall. She had gorgeous long brown curly hair with big hazel eyes. She left behind a necklace that hung over the picture. It was a gold chain with a dolphin pendant. I kept it in case she ever came back for it.

One night, when I was only eight, I woke up to the sound of heavy knocks on the door. A social worker and the police took me away from Nelson and arrested him. I haven’t seen him since. I packed the picture, the necklace and a blanket in a plastic bag and left. They brought me to a place called a group home. It felt like constantly living at school. I was always with a bunch of different kids, and I had to share everything with them. The people taking care of us would come and go. Some were nice. Others were miserable and wanted us to be miserable too. It’s weird growing up with strangers that you’re supposed to consider family.

Joey got there a year later, and we’ve been inseparable ever since. I found out that his mother was a crack addict and his father was serving time for dealing drugs. All Joey wanted was to find his younger brother, Jesse. Social workers separated them and sent his brother to another group home. Jesse was all he would talk about. “I have to protect my baby brother. I have to be there for him. I’m all he’s got,” Joey would shout out whenever he got upset with someone. He tried running away several times, but the police would always track him down. They even took his shoes so he wouldn’t run away again.

This time though, we ran away together.

“Let’s get the hell out of here,” I called out to Joey. “The cops are searching for us. It’s a small fucking town, we need to jet.” After months of planning and waiting for Joey to get his old shoes back, we finally escaped the group home one afternoon. I had agreed to help Joey find his baby brother.

“Fuck the cops and fuck this system. Have a beer,” Joey said as he passed me the Rolling Stone he had just stolen from a 7/11.

Joey and I headed straight to the Gardnerville bus station.

Our plan was to head to Portland. Word was that the social service people took his little brother Jesse there. I didn’t care where we went. I had nowhere to go, nothing to lose and everything to gain. I was free and lonely as hell. Freedom and loneliness combined make way for a fascinating yet destructive adventure.

All I wanted was to get the hell out of this town and never look back. The only belongings I took were the picture of my mother and her gold necklace. I hoped to find her and prove I was nothing like Nelson and that I was worthy of her love.

While waiting for the Greyhound bus, I realized how sad bus stations can be. When lost and broken souls like mine want to escape, the first place they run to is the nearest bus terminal. Before we left, I grabbed a quarter and headed towards a payphone. I took a note out of my pocket. I could hear my heart jumping out of my chest. I had a phone call to make.

[To be continued…]

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Saving face shouldn’t be Concordia’s priority

When classes resumed following the winter break, the Concordia community was greeted by widely publicized allegations of sexual misconduct by instructors in the university’s creative writing program. These accusations came as a shock to some, but for many current and former English department students, they were simply a long-overdue acknowledgment of an “open secret.”

As was reported in the weeks that followed, the behaviour of certain teachers and the overall toxic, misogynistic environment of the creative writing program was not only common knowledge among many English department students—it had been publicly written about before. Former student Emma Healey published a personal essay online about her abusive relationship with an instructor years ago, and several students brought their concerns directly to the department in 2015.

Although it took the words of a male alumnus, Mike Spry, to finally catch the attention of the news media and the university’s administration, we at The Concordian are glad to see that, two months later, this problem has not been swept under the rug. An investigation into the allegations is underway. Two creative writing teachers have been suspended, and a task force is being assembled to review the university’s policies for preventing and dealing with sexual misconduct and sexual violence.

On Feb. 28, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) hosted a student congress to gather input about policy changes regarding sexual misconduct on campus directly from the student body. According to Leyla Sutherland, the CSU’s student life coordinator, these suggestions will be integrated into a proposal the union will present to the university’s administration.

One of the most prominent proposals for the task force discussed during the student congress was the implementation of university-funded, mandatory consent and power-dynamics training for all students, staff and faculty members. We at The Concordian strongly support this demand. The university should be a safe space for students to learn, flourish and achieve their academic goals. Staff and faculty members should support and empower student success, not hinder or threaten it.

Over the last few years, the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) and the Commerce and Administration Students’ Association (CASAJMSB) have implemented mandatory consent training workshops for all of their frosh attendees. Ensuring student safety at frosh is vital, but sexual violence on campus is not limited to that first week of socializing and drinking. The Sexual Assault Resource Centre has also held consent workshops for Stingers teams and first-year students living in residence. It is long-overdue that Concordia’s administration follow the lead of its student associations and ensure its entire community is informed and protected throughout the year.

During the student congress, many students also voiced their anger about the way the university has handled sexual misconduct allegations in the past, claiming such incidents had been covered-up to protect Concordia’s reputation. This is why we at The Concordian believe university-implemented consent training should come with an acknowledgement by Concordia of its shortcomings.

Throughout their university degree, most students will hear at least one professor reiterate a variation of Socrates’s statement: “All I know is that I know nothing.” These words are meant to remind students that, in order to learn, one must first set aside their ego and admit they are ignorant.

As an educational institution, Concordia should also be willing to learn—and this begins by admitting mistakes and ignorance. Doing so would represent a commitment by the university to prioritize long-term, concrete change over its short-term public relations goals. Doing so would be a first step in rebuilding confidence in the university’s ability to protect its students and prioritize their well-being.

Although there is still a lot of work to be done, we at The Concordian believe there is reason to hope for substantial, positive change. But we would like to remind Concordia’s administration why this change did not come sooner. When students spoke up, the administration did not listen.

So, to the university’s administration: please turn to page two of this newspaper and read our coverage of the CSU student congress. The students are speaking; are you listening?


President addresses sexual misconduct investigation

Alan Shepard denies reading 2015 letter detailing allegations, discusses new guidelines

Concordia president Alan Shepard shed light on the current investigation into the highly publicized allegations of sexual misconduct against multiple instructors in the creative writing program and reflected on what steps the university will take to address the issue of sexual violence on campus, in an interview with The Concordian on Jan. 25.

Shepard confirmed that a number of former students submitted a letter to the chair of the English department in 2015 detailing the allegations made by Emma Healey in her essay “Stories Like Passwords,” which was published on the website The Hairpin. The letter also described what the signatories felt was a hostile environment. However, Shepard insisted he didn’t read the letter in 2015 because the dean did not disclose its contents to the president’s office after the signatories requested confidentiality.

“As I understand it, [the English department] immediately referred it to the dean in the Faculty of Arts and Science, and there were meetings and discussions about their experiences,” Shepard said. “We take confidentiality super seriously, so the letter was not transmitted up the line to the provost or to my office.”

Shepard also discussed the university’s conflict of interest policy, and whether the policy will be amended to prohibit faculty-student relationships.

Currently, Concordia’s conflict of interest policy guidelines cover a range of circumstances, such as working alongside immediate relatives and situations that may lead to “real or perceived” preferential treatment, but does not explicitly mention romantic relationships. Shepard said that, while American universities are able to ban faculty-student relationships under a federal law called Title IX, the laws in Canada are different.

In Quebec, a piece of legislation called Bill 151 does require certain steps be taken to address sexual violence on campus, including requiring schools to “include a code of conduct specifying guidelines for […] sexual relationships […] between students and persons having an influence over their academic progress.” However, Concordia’s legal team concluded that “an outright ban would be unlikely to withstand legal challenge,” according to Shepard.

Shepard also claimed the university had been working on a new set of conflict of interest guidelines before the allegations gained national attention in early January. The university’s new guidelines will require employees, but not students, to report any faculty-student relationships to their supervisors, and the couples would be unable to simultaneously engage in a romantic and professional relationship.

Despite the fact that the university will not be prohibiting romantic relationships between faculty and students, Shepard said he personally does not believe such relationships are appropriate.

“In my view, such relationships really can’t be equal relationships because you have a power differential,” he said. “So we’re strongly discouraging it, but we think that is as far as the law will allow us to go.”

As for progress on the investigation, Shepard said it is still in its early stages, and a number of students, graduates and staff members are being interviewed. He added that, for legal reasons, the university would be unable to publicize the conclusions of the investigation or any potential disciplinary action taken against employees. “As much as we might want to, we can’t,” Shepard said.

The university has also announced plans to create a task force on sexual misconduct and sexual violence to review current policies and address the requirements of Bill 151. The university is currently looking for a mix of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as staff and external members to join the task force. This task force will be in addition to the deputy provost’s investigation into the university’s environment.

“It’s not like on courtroom TV where everything is wrapped up in 49 minutes plus commercials,” Shepard said. “It’s actually a serious process, so it’s not super slow, but it’s not super fast.”

Shepard added that one of the university’s priorities is developing strategies, including better training and stricter conditions of employment, to prevent future cases of harassment and misconduct.

“It’s one thing to punish people after it’s happened,” he said. “It’s way better to minimize the opportunities for this kind of conduct. A fair bit of this can be stopped before it gets started.”

Photo by Alex Hutchins


Believing women is not a radical idea

Whether it’s the good, the bad or the oh-so-ugly, what happens in Hollywood often feels detached from our everyday reality. Perhaps this is why, despite the entertainment industry’s widely discussed “open secret” of rampant sexual misconduct and abuse of power, it can be upsetting and even shocking to learn of disturbing allegations at our very own university. What is even more troubling, however, is the fact that sexual harassment and assault at Concordia has never been a secret at all.

Recently, sexual misconduct allegations at the hands of Concordia professors have surfaced. An online essay written by Mike Spry, a former Concordia creative writing student, described cases of professors from the English department abusing their academic power to prey on students. Although no professors were named, the essay includes claims that English professors had sexually harassed female students. According to Spry, one professor even rented a hotel room so he could “entertain young writers away from his house and family.” The essay also mentioned “drunken nights of misbehaviour” and how professors would coerce female students into inappropriate and sexual situations under the guise of discussing their creative work.

Last week, Concordia president Alan Shepard announced that the university is taking several steps to investigate the allegations. He also claimed he was unaware of the incidents until early last week when Spry’s essay was published. We at The Concordian think it’s important to note that numerous current and former female Concordia students have been speaking up about the English department’s sexually abusive, toxic environment for years.

Similar allegations of sexual misconduct in the English department were made public in 2014 by former student Emma Healey in her online essay titled “Stories Like Passwords.” In response to Healey’s allegations, several students wrote a formal letter to the English department in 2015 describing the inappropriate atmosphere and stating they felt “uncomfortable and unsafe,” according to the Toronto Star.

Heather O’Neill, a Montreal author, has also spoken out about experiencing sexual misconduct at the hands of the late Concordia professor Robert Allen when she was a student in the late 1990s. According to The Globe and Mail, O’Neill described the sexual harassment and abuse of power within the department as “pervasive.” Stephen Henighan, a former student of Allen’s, told the Toronto Star that the “toxic culture” in the creative writing program can be traced back to the mid-1980s.

It is crucial to point out that many people at Concordia failed to support these students or investigate their claims. The university should have pursued these allegations earlier. Even The Concordian and The Link failed to report on the issue when Healey and O’Neill’s claims were made public, or when any of the other female students’ claims were submitted to the department. We all failed these victims.

While we remain hopeful about the investigative actions Concordia claims to be taking now, we would like to highlight that we are all at fault for this delayed response. We need to listen to survivors when they come forward. We need to give victims the benefit of the doubt. We need to be proactive when we hear even a whisper of an allegation. We need to do better—all of us.

The harsh truth is that Concordia would not be addressing these allegations had it not been for Spry’s essay. It is extremely unfortunate that it took a male writer making these claims for us to finally take action, while, for years, many female voices went unheard.

Abuse of power is a complex problem that must not be ignored. To do so would be incredibly irresponsible. We at The Concordian hope the publicity surrounding the recent allegations at Concordia teaches us all to do a better job of listening, believing and taking action—the first time.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Two professors’ courses reassigned: CASE

Q&A held by Concordia faculty with students in wake of allegations

The Concordia Association for Students in English (CASE) circulated a document at a meeting on Jan. 12 announcing that two professors had their courses reassigned pending an investigation and their books had been taken out of the English department’s display in the Webster Library.

Four faculty members met with a small group of English students during the meeting in the library building to answer questions and discuss actions being taken by the university in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct made against a few professors in Concordia’s creative writing program.

Kate Sterns, the creative writing program coordinator, and English department chair Andre Furlani were present at the meeting alongside Lisa Ostiguy, the university’s deputy provost, and dean of students Andrew Woodall. All four representatives encouraged the students to reach out to someone at the university if they’d had a negative experience with a professor.

“Where we have a complaint, we pursue it,” Furlani said. “The problem is that people don’t feel they can approach various members of the department.”

The representatives stressed that the university has dealt effectively with sexual assault complaints in the past, but the outcomes of those cases cannot be shared with the public due to confidentiality agreements.

“Among the people I’ve been talking to, there’s a distrust of the university,” said one student during the meeting.

Furlani said those who shared stories on social media under the CanLitAccountable hashtag—the title of a blog created by former student Mike Spry to describe allegations of misconduct—have been contacted by the university and all allegations are being investigated by an independent party.

According to Ostiguy, the university is also in the process of drafting a policy on student-staff relations.

Feature photo by Alex Hutchins


Concordia announces plan of action following sexual misconduct allegations

President Alan Shepard confident in university environment: “The department is safe”

“I feel confident with the environment we have at the university and that the department is safe,” said Concordia president Alan Shepard after announcing the launch of an assessment of the university’s current environment on Jan. 10.

Following allegations of sexual misconduct by professors in Concordia University’s creative writing program, Shepard said he was “profoundly sorry.”

“We take this stuff very seriously, very seriously,” he said.

Concordia president Alan Shepard responded to recent allegations at a press conference on Jan. 10, stating that the university is not “trying to sweep everything under a rug.” Photo by Étienne Lajoie

Shepard announced on Wednesday that the university will be launching an investigation into the allegations posted online by Concordia alumnus Mike Spry on Jan. 8. The investigation was one of three specific actions Shepard outlined during the press conference and in a press release sent to students. The release, written by Shepard himself, reads that the university will also be “meeting this week with students, faculty and staff in the creative writing program to listen, support and chart a path forward.”

The university’s third initiative is an assessment of the “current environment” at Concordia, which will be coordinated by deputy provost Lisa Ostiguy. Ostiguy previously chaired the Sexual Assault Policy Review Working Group, which reviewed the university’s sexual assault policies and made recommendations in August 2015.
“These are complicated matters, and we have to proceed with care. People’s lives are affected by these experiences, and people who are facing allegations also deserve due process,” Shepard said. “We take the allegations seriously. It’s not a case of us trying to sweep everything under a rug.”
Shepard invited students to consult the university’s Office of Rights and Responsibilities and the Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC).

When asked if the university had decided whether to suspend any professors, Shepard said “all investigations are confidential by law and by our policy.” He did not comment when asked if any professors accused of misconduct might still be employed by the university.

“One of the misconceptions I think about our university is that we get complaints about faculty members and we ignore the complaints. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Shepard said.

In 2014, Concordia alumna Emma Healey published an essay on the website The Hairpin making allegations of sexual misconduct against a Concordia creative writing professor. When asked about the university’s lack of response to previous allegations against professors from the program, Shepard said “I acted on Monday afternoon because I heard about it on Monday afternoon.”

Several former students have stated on social media that the creative writing department’s “toxic culture”—as Spry referred to it—has been an open secret dating back 20 years. According to Shepard, “it was not an open secret” to him. “I did my best to pay attention,” he added. “I deeply regret. This is not okay. This not acceptable.”

Feature photo by Alex Hutchins

Student Life

A night in the life of a Barfly

A creative storytelling series by Concordia students

My interest in Barfly started this past summer when I was first discovering new bars in Montreal by myself. At a bar called Grumpy’s, I had a funny conversation with two strangers, who were brother and sister, about the definition of a barfly. Barfly (noun): a person who spends too much time drinking in bars. The brother recommended that I visit Barfly at least once, hailing it as the best dive bar in the city.

I hadn’t planned on going to Barfly this Saturday night. Originally, I was headed off to my friend Sarina’s house, but it turns out I had mixed up the dates of her birthday party, so I made new plans. Earlier that week, I had seen a Facebook event for two bands who would be playing that night. Excited to hear some good live music, I decided to check out Barfly for a spontaneous rock-and-roll adventure.

I got on a bus in front of St-Laurent metro and as I got off, I  immediately spotted the bar right across the street. Not sure what to expect, I opened the door and went to sit in the middle of the bar. To my surprise, my Facebook friend Steve, who was playing drums that night, was sitting right beside me. He didn’t recognize me until I pulled out a pen from my purse and started drawing a picture of Pennywise the clown. After awhile, I noticed that there was another person engaged in creative work.

Across from me, there was a bearded man writing and drawing in a sketchbook. Even though we never spoke a word to each other the entire night, seeing this like-minded individual made me feel less weird. I was happy to be sitting next to Steve since he always has interesting stories to share and he appreciates my talent as a visual artist. We talked about our addiction to tattoos and where he got the fork-shaped piece of jewelry that he was wearing.

The funniest part of the night was when my English teacher, who taught me short fiction two years ago, showed up. He commented that he knew the author of the poetry book I was reading. It never ceases to surprise me how small social circles are in Montreal. When the second band of the night started playing, a quirky and drunk old man got up on stage and started dancing. When he got too carried away, his lady friend grabbed him off the stage and forced him to sit down. There was a moment when time seemed to slow down. I stopped watching the stage and looked around at the crowd of people who were nodding their heads along with the rhythm of the music.

I felt like a fly on the wall, quietly observing the strange mix of people around me. Even though I was probably the youngest person at the bar, I felt a sense of belonging to this group of strangers who wouldn’t judge me. Everyone gathered there that night was longing for an  alcoholic escape from the stresses of everyday life like me. At midnight, I decided to start heading home. I walked out into the night and spotted the drunk old man outside with his pants down peeing into the wind. A couple laughed at his exposed privates as they passed by.

Spontaneous adventures like this night are important because they remind me that I can still have fun by myself. I seek comfort in going to bars alone to renew my sense of independence. Going to Barfly was a fun night filled with good music and quirky individuals.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

Student Life

A creative storytelling series by Concordia students

Book author Léandre Larouche shares his short story, “Infrastructure”

The main street is walking down my body. I’ve been wandering around for too long now. Thanks to the downtown lights, I see the city’s true colours. I see the uncovered faces of churches, condos, skyscrapers and bridges; and the main street keeps walking down my body. I feel its heavy weight crash onto my soul. There’s something uncanny about being alone. It’s as if everything was more evident, more noteworthy. I notice how run-down our infrastructure is.

Simultaneous construction around the city is at an all-time high; it monopolizes the public space from the street level to the sky. Giant ladders stand still leaned up against building walls, while operating cranes and piles of materials occupy entire parking lots. Every corner, ostracized, finds itself hijacked by construction equipment. But at this time—it’s 11:30 p.m.—nothing’s going on, everything’s frozen. I see my city as a sad, grayish picture, one upon which I’m forced to lay my eyes, sad and bitter and resentful. I didn’t ask to see the city as it is. I didn’t ask to be alone tonight.

There are so many bars here, more than I thought. Never would I have expected to see so many of them, on just one street, although I know this city as no one else does. Nor would I have imagined so many people congregating inside them. My friends and I are of the most loyal, trustworthy regulars to the bars we cherish and call home; we never miss, at least not without a good reason, the rendezvous that has become tradition. We are earnest drinkers, fervent chatters and lovers of people; yet I was blissfully unaware that my city had so many choices.

Just to my left is a brewery I must have gone to a dozen times. As I walk by it, a group of men stand next to the door, smoking cigarettes, chatting and laughing loudly. These rather muscular guys, with beards and all, are clearly having a good time. I pass just in front of them, slow down and turn back. I shoot a glance inside the bar. I can see the people; I can feel the vibe. They walk and talk and drink in the laid-back atmosphere; the bar is half modern, half antique. I want to go in. I want to go in and sit down and have a drink. But I refrain and keep walking.

Further down the main street is another bar which I more or less know. I mean to enter that one too. The dim light at the entrance suggests a tiny ray of hope for me. I approach the door, stare at the doorman, and then decide to back off. This place isn’t for me, after all. I keep walking, paying more and more attention to bars and, as I remain in motion, I see plenty of them. I see plenty but they’re all full. As soon as I look in, if I dare do so, I don’t see any place for me to sneak in. The counters are unwelcoming and so are the tables. There’s no place where I might belong.

I accelerate my pace, throwing glances at bars I pass, and I don’t go in. I note each one’s crowdedness, biting my lips. Panic grows apace, my heart pounding, my head hurting and my mouth becoming dry. I grow dizzy and uncomfortable; I can’t see the surrounding light. After a while, I hit the end of the main street only to find myself faced with deep shame. There must be something wrong with me, I think. All the moments spent with friends in bars rush to my mind. Why am I so lonely? Why am I so abnormal? I thought I was someone.

The only place I can get into is a pizza place, empty and just about to close. Once inside, I sit down, slice in hand, and gaze at a condo building being demolished outside. They’re not done with it yet, but it already looks like a perfect wreck. I bite into my pizza and tomato sauce falls onto my shirt. The cashier is cleaning up behind me. It’s 11:59 p.m. now, and the dawn of a new day threatens me. In a minute, it will be Friday night no more, and I feel like a disappointed disappointment. I wonder what everyone might be doing right now. I sigh. My infrastructure isn’t any better than the city’s.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

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