Students Allege Sexual Harassment by Concordia Philosophy Professor

Several students at Concordia University have accused a professor in its Department of Philosophy of sexual harassment.  One of the students has accused the university of “systemic failings of its sexual violence and sexual harassment policies,” filed a civil rights complaint against the school that includes a  request that the accused professor “face sanctions for his alleged behaviour,” and is suing for CA$60,000 (approximately $45,000) in damages.

The CBC reports:

“Alya” [not the student’s real name] was a Concordia undergraduate student in 2009 when she began receiving emails from her professor, asking her to party with him at bars. In the emails, obtained by CBC News, she told him she doesn’t drink. In one email, she reminded him of that fact.

“I could always slip some vodka into your pop when you weren’t looking!!!!!!!” he responded.

She deflected his advances in her responses, but he persisted. He began one email by writing “Hi [Alya], hug and kiss.”

In May 2009, another student filed a formal complaint about the same professor and Alya agreed to testify on that student’s behalf, reporting her experience dealing with him.

The stress of testifying, in addition to an end-of-semester illness, made it difficult to finish three of her final assignments. “I just didn’t want to go to class anymore,” she said. “I didn’t want to be around the department.” 

She wrote an email to the chair of her department, philosophy, asking for an extension to finish her assignments. The chair responded, calling her reason—the anxiety and stress associated with reporting the professor’s behaviour—“insufficient.” He also asked she not tell other members of the department about the ongoing harassment case. 

“It really made me realize what I was dealing with, in terms of who the chair and the department was out to serve, and it wasn’t me,” she said…

She went on to fail two of the courses, causing a permanent blemish on her academic record. She left Concordia and transferred to York University at significant personal expense.

Five years after the alleged harassment, Alya approached Concordia again, hoping to file a complaint about how she was treated. She said when she approached the university, she was shuffled from department to department, “like a ball in a pinball machine.”

First, she contacted the new chair of the philosophy department, who forwarded her emails to the school’s Office of Rights and Responsibilities.  She was told it was too late for her to file a complaint and was told to call the ombudsman or the dean. She contacted the ombudsman and received no response. Disheartened, she gave up.

But then, in 2017, she met another student who was enrolled at Concordia’s philosophy department. That woman told Alya she had recently been harassed by the same professor.

Alya said she was appalled the professor was still working at the university, and decided to file a human rights complaint, naming the school.

“It really indicated to me there is still a culture of inappropriate behaviour being tolerated in the department from the same person, almost 10 years later, and it disgusted me,” she said.

She said she met with officials from the school’s administration, who agreed to remove the failed classes from her academic record and instead mark them as incomplete. But by then, Alya had already been rejected for graduate programs, a fact she blames on those failed classes.

The CBC’s article is here.

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