Concordia head ‘disturbed’ by sex allegations
Blog led others to speak out on ‘toxic’ culture in school’s creative writing program
MONTREAL— The president of Concordia University says he is “disturbed” by published allegations of sexual misconduct against members of the school’s creative writing program.
Alan Shepard’s statement was prompted by an online essay by writer and Concordia graduate Mike Spry which alleged there was a “toxic” culture at the school he began attending in 2004, whereby male faculty engaged in inappropriate relationships with female students.
“As a student at Concordia I was witness to the abuse of power and the normalization of sexualization of students by professors, writers, edi- tors, and publishers,” Spry wrote.
He said he was present the night that a professor and writer, whom he did not identify, went home with a younger student after a drunken night out. He also wrote of a writer and Concordia faculty member who rented a hotel room during a literary festival to “entertain young writers away from his house and family.”
“I have been witness to and made aware of innumerable instances of unwanted affection, groping, inappropriate remarks and propositions,” Spry wrote.
Shepard said in a statement released late Monday night: “I am disturbed by what I read in the blog post. These allegations are serious and will be treated seriously.”
The statement urged people to report sexual violence and misconduct to a university body that deals with “behavioural incidents and conflicts on campus.”
Spry’s essay prompted several former female students to come forward about their experiences on social media. Many also criticized the Montreal university’s approach to issues they said were chronic and wellknown in the creative writing program.
In an October 2014 essay, Torontobased poet Emma Healey, a Concordia graduate, told of her experience at the age of 19 with a 34-year-old faculty member, whom she did not name. They dated for a year while she was at the school. She wrote that he forced himself on her one night after they had broken up.
Award-winning Montreal fiction writer Heather O’Neill, a Concordia graduate, also weighed in on the allegations, saying the problems have lingered for nearly two decades.
“I’ve been talking about sexual misconduct at Concordia since I attended circa 1999” she wrote on Twitter.