Concordia president disturbed by allegations against members of creative writing program
Peter Rakobowchuk, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, January 9, 2018 2:16PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 9, 2018 4:50PM EST
MONTREAL -- The head of Montreal's Concordia University says he's disturbed by the contents of a blog post that makes sexual misconduct allegations against members of the English department.
President Alan Shepard has issued a statement in which he described as "serious" the allegations by blogger Mike Spry, which go beyond Concordia.
Shepard said the post makes specific allegations as well as general allegations of an abusive climate in the department's creative writing program.
"I am disturbed by what I read in the blog post," he said in the statement, adding the allegations "will be treated seriously."
Spry, who was accepted into Concordia's undergraduate creative writing program in 2004, alleges that over the years, he witnessed and was made aware of "innumerable instances of unwanted affection, groping, inappropriate remarks and propositions."
He claims that "when rejected by women, men in position of power would engage in whisper campaigns, denigrating and degrading those who rejected them."
Shepard noted that Concordia has taken several steps over the past several years "to strengthen the safety of our learning and working environment."
"We continue to improve our efforts to prevent sexual violence and sexual harassment and to respond effectively when it does happen," he said.
Shepard pointed out that Concordia has a sexual assault resource centre and that in 2016 the university adopted a new policy on sexual violence "that aims to make the process for reporting clearer and less burdensome to survivors."
Spry's allegations are contained in a 14-page blog post dated Jan. 8 and entitled "No Names, Only Monsters."
He claims that one Concordia professor, a well-known writer, would brag openly about dating or sleeping with students.
"He would attempt to manipulate by buying them drinks, using the pretext of wanting to discuss their craft, overwhelm them with alcohol and smarm, promise them publication and praise, offer them mentorship (and) if they eschewed his advances, he would denigrate them and their writing," Spry wrote.
The blogger takes on, not only Concordia, but the entire "CanLit" community, which he describes as a "monster."
He claims publishers and English departments are guilty of sustaining an environment where professors, many protected by tenure, abuse the power of their position in both academia and literature.
"At a Montreal literary festival, one internationally celebrated writer, despite being a Concordia professor, rented a hotel room where he could entertain young writers away from his house and family," Spry wrote.
"Even if a student comes forward, nothing is done. English and creative writing departments across Canada and the U.S. knowingly cultivate environments that are criminally unsafe for young women and aspiring writers."
Spry says he witnessed the abuse of power and "the normalization of sexualization of students by professors, writers, editors and publishers."
"Positions of power in CanLit are abused the same way that the Harvey Weinsteins, Kevin Spaceys, Dustin Hoffmans and Louis C.K.s did; to subjugate aspiring artists to their every whim," he added.