Students accuse McGill University of mishandling sexual violence allegations against professors
Published Thursday, April 5, 2018 1:50PM EDT
The Students’ Society of McGill University is calling for a third-party investigation into how the school’s Office of the Dean of Arts has been handling complaints about “predatory” professors.
In an open letter to McGill’s principal, provost and dean of students, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) leadership accuses the university administration of “mismanagement of sexual violence allegations against professors in the Faculty of Arts.”
“Year after year both the SSMU, Faculty and Departmental Student Associations, specifically History, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, and World Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (WIMES) hear concerns students have about professors who are known by students to be abusive,” the letter says.
“These professors continue to teach and to supervise, in some cases teaching mandatory first year courses, leaving vulnerable the students who have not yet been warned about the predatory behaviours of certain professors.”
The letter does not name any professors, but says that student representatives have complained about them to different university administrators over the past year. The letter alleges that “the majority of administration” knew which professors students had concerns about, but that no action was taken.
“The administration has made no attempt to address abuses of power in a meaningful or significant way, instead consistently citing lack of formal complaints or ongoing committee work as reason for not immediately addressing concerns,” the letter says.
In calling for a third-party investigation into the handling of formal and informal complaints about professors, the SSMU said those involved should be held accountable for their actions and the university should “be able to respond more appropriately to the needs of its students.”
Connor Spencer, the SSMU’s vice-president of external affairs, told reporters Thursday that the student society wants to focus on the need for an investigation, rather than naming individual professors, because of the fear of repercussions.
“The fear of retaliation is not only very real, but it’s actually a very legitimate fear that folks have of a lot of the professors but also the administration,” Spencer said.
In a statement, McGill University said it investigates all reports of sexual misconduct or abuse.
“Every report or complaint of sexual misconduct, abuse of authority through sexual misconduct or “predatory behaviour” that contains sufficiently detailed facts is investigated,” the university said.
“If there are findings of sexual misconduct of any kind, appropriate measures are taken, following due process.”
With a report from CTV Montreal’s Rob Lurie