Canada Another Concordia creative writing prof facing harassment allegations from former students

16:40  18 january  2018
16:40  18 january  2018 Source:   cbc.ca

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At least two former students in the creative writing program at Concordia University in Montreal have filed formal complaints of sexual harassment against a professor who remains in the English Department, CBC News has learned.

At least two former students in the creative writing program at Concordia University in Montreal have filed formal complaints of sexual harassment against. Tags: allegations Concordia Creative Faces harassment Prof students Writing .

Another Concordia creative writing prof facing harassment allegations from former students© Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press Another Concordia creative writing prof facing harassment allegations from former students

At least two former students in Concordia University's creative writing program have filed formal complaints of harassment with the university's Office of Rights and Responsibilities against a professor who is still in the English Department, CBC News has learned.

The allegations outlined in the complaints date back to the 1990s.

Two of the professor's former students have told CBC the professor in question would routinely switch appointments with female students from his office to his home or to another off-campus location and then make sexual advances.

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At least two former students in the creative writing program at Concordia University in Montreal have filed formal complaints of sexual harassment with the school against a professor who remains in the English Department, CBC News has learned.

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The professor is not one of two whose classes were reassigned last week. A spokeswoman for Concordia University confirmed the professor in question is not teaching this semester.

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'I felt sick. I felt gross. I felt violated,' woman says

In the most recent allegations, one of the former students, who CBC is not naming to protect her privacy, said she was uncomfortable with meeting the professor at his home, as he requested, but he'd routinely refused to discuss her work in class, so she felt she had no choice.

She said she was even more uncomfortable once she got to the man's house.

"He had the table set for two," the former student said. "The first thing he showed me was his bed, which he told me was very convenient."

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Another Concordia creative writing prof facing harassment allegations from former students . Creative writing concordia montreal At least two former students in Concordia University's creative writing . Concordia University defines next-generation education.

At least two former students in the creative writing program at Concordia University in Montreal have filed formal complaints of sexual harassment against a professor who remains in the English Department, CBC News has learned.

"He showed no interest in speaking about my work. He just said, 'Yes, yes, it's great. Keep going as you are.'"

"I was very uncomfortable. He offered me alcohol. I said no. He didn't like that. I started getting more and more nervous, and he started talking about women's dirty underwear," the former student said.

She said at that point, she told the professor she had to leave, and he got angry, demanding to know why. Finally, she said, she was able to get away.

'I don't think he should have been there for the last 25 years.' - Complainant alleging harassment by professor in 1990s

"I felt sick to my stomach. I felt disgusting; I felt sick; I felt gross. I felt violated by this man."

She said it also made her doubt her writing skills.

"It had been sullied completely by this experience," she told CBC.

The former student said she never filed a formal complaint at the time, but she did speak to other professors she trusted, and she expressed her concerns about the professor's attitude towards women on the teacher-evaluation form at the end of the semester.

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Another Concordia creative writing prof facing harassment allegations from former students . She has a Masters in English literature and Creative Writing from Concordia University and travels to the Arctic from time to time.

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She never heard any more about it.

A male friend of the former student's who also did not want to be named confirmed to CBC that she told him about the incident at the time.

When the allegations of widespread sexual misconduct in the university's creative writing program surfaced last week, the former student was shocked to discover that the professor with whom she'd had such a harrowing encounter was still working at the university.

"I wanted to scream for everyone that's been through his class in the last 25 years. He's had a lot of time to hone this power imbalance," she said.

"He should not be there. There's no way he should be there. I don't think he should have been there for the last 25 years."

'It was very clearly, in his mind, a date'

Ibi Kaslik, now a novelist and University of Toronto creative writing professor, held back tears as she told CBC about her recollection of a similar experience with the same professor in the late 1990s.

Kaslik stressed that she had mostly positive experiences in the program, except for her dealings with this one professor.

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Another Concordia creative writing prof facing harassment allegations from former students . She has a Masters in English literature and Creative Writing from Concordia University and travels to the Arctic from time to time.

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She recounted how she showed up at the professor's office for a scheduled meeting to discuss her work.

"There was a note on the door with an address and my name, and it was the McGill faculty lounge, in the middle of an afternoon," Kaslik said.

Kaslik went to the lounge to meet him. She said she was puzzled by the professor's behaviour.

"I was given a tour. There were some of his cronies there. I was introduced. It was very clearly, in his mind, a date," Kaslik said.

She said she spent an uncomfortable three hours with the professor at the lounge before she found an excuse to leave.

Kaslik told her boyfriend at the time, Jim Knox, about what had happened, which Knox confirmed.

Knox urged her to complain at the time, but Kaslik said she decided against it when she heard that the professor had tenure, thinking the complaint would go nowhere and could threaten her chances of being accepted into the university's graduate program.

Like the other former student, she decided to complain to the university's Office of Rights and Responsibilities after hearing about the controversy about her old program .

  • Concordia launches investigation into alleged sexual misconduct

"I never thought we would get this opportunity. I feel compelled to do this for my students, for my daughter and for this generation of women now in their 40s," Kaslik said.

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At Least Two Former Students In The Creative Writing Program At Concordia University In Montreal Have Filed Formal Complaints Of Sexual Harassment Against A Professor

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More recent allegation

A third student from the 1990s, Sarah Faber, contacted CBC with her story, recalling an occasion when she was talking with the same professor in a university hallway.

"I don't even remember what exactly we were talking about, but he just, quite suddenly, tried to kiss me," Faber said.

"I remember being quite taken aback and sort of pulling away. It took me off guard. He was a lot older than me."

She said she never had any other problems with that professor.

CBC has spoken to a fourth woman, a more recent student in the program, who said the same professor invited her to meet him off-campus when she tried to set up an appointment with him to contest a grade.

"He called me on my cellphone and said if I wanted to meet, it would have to be at his studio," Laura Lalonde said.

She said she was uncomfortable with the idea and after asking friends, she decided not to meet the professor and gave up contesting the grade.

Male students confused

If the alleged experiences with this professor were unsettling for the women involved, they were also bewildering for male students in the creative writing program who were their acquaintances.

'OK, I guess I'm in Woody Allen land now.' - Male former student, recalling his confusion over prof's alleged party behaviour.

Knox, Kaslik's former boyfriend, told CBC that Kaslik's experience with this professor affected their relationship.

"It was super-upsetting for both of us. I was an insecure young man, and here was this established professional writer showing this inappropriate interest in my girlfriend. We didn't know what to do," Knox recalled.

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A male friend of the other complainant from the 1990s said he witnessed the professor once hitting on his date at a party.

"As soon as we got to the party, he ignored everybody and went straight after my girlfriend in an attempt to seduce her," said the man, who doesn't want to be named.

He said it was a confusing time.

"I came from the suburbs in western Canada. I saw what was going on and part of me was appalled, but at the same time I thought,  'OK, I guess I'm in Woody Allen land now,'" the man said.

Concordia response

CBC tried to reach the professor in question for comment, through Concordia's English Department. He hasn't yet responded. The department secretary told CBC the professor is not teaching any courses in the department this semester.

Concordia University's spokesperson, Mary-Jo Barr, sent CBC a statement Wednesday evening confirming that the professor in question is not teaching at Concordia this semester.

Barr said that all allegations will be thoroughly investigated.

"Any form of sexual misconduct is unacceptable, in direct violation of our values and policies, and will not be tolerated," Barr said in the statement. "Any allegations of misconduct will be thoroughly investigated and following investigation, when warranted, may result in disciplinary measures up to and including possible dismissal."

Barr added that several meetings were held last week to come up with new measures that will "help us strengthen the safety and security of our community."

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