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Poorly managed sexual harassment complaints at UQAM?

1 November 2018
Chloé Duchastel-Vassaramva

Translated by Nelle Tremblay

During the course of Monday, dozens of posters appeared in the city of Montreal, denouncing the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM)’s management of sexual and psychological harassment complaints, before being taken down in the evening. Messages like ‘’Leaving the Harassment Prevention office crying. This is also the UQAM effect’' and ''The Harassment Prevention office. Where we will tell you that we can’t do anything to help you'' could be read, accompanied by the buzzword #whyIdidnotcomeforward, which helps to explain the motivations of this campaign that has not been claimed. An anonymous e-mail by the authors of this ''feminist autonomous action'' was sent to several professors and associations, pointing fingers at the Harassment Intervention and Prevention office (BIPH) and the administration of UQAM. According to them, there is a lack of will to fight against harassment and sexual assault. Those in charge, among others, demand that a hiring system for competent staff in terms of sexual assault and harassment be put into place and a better treatment of complaints by the BIPH, currently valuing faculty at the expense of student safety. The services offered at this time would be considered inadequate and unsatisfactory.

For UQAM sociology doctoral candidate Sandrine Ricci, these actions would testify to a problem that does not date from yesterday, recalling the 'stickers on the doors’ episode that targeted teachers with harassment complaints. According to her, it is the direct actions, the shock actions, which generate the most reactions and which allow for things to advance. According to the ESSIMU (Independent Inquiry into Sexuality, Safety and Interaction in the University) survey, in which she participates as a team member, the criticisms displayed are those identified in the field. According to the 2017 results, only 28% of respondents (about 3,000 people) felt that the university had a proactive approach to dealing with sexual assault. In addition, 90% of respondents considered that UQAM should focus on the establishment of an independent body to handle complaints, erasing all conflicts of interest and building trust and working on the safety of victims.

Jenry Desrochers, University spokesman, denounced the campaign and accused those is charge of committing identity theft of UQAM, the posters using its logo, slogan and aesthetics of the university's fundraising campaign. According to her, these criticisms are far from the opinions identified during the university's community consultation aimed at setting up a policy on sexual violence, but that UQAM was ready to collect criticism to improve its practices. UQAM is currently working with a worker from CALACS Trève pour Elles and investigators external to the university.


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UQAM, complaints, sexual harassment, sexual assault, support, legal support, policies


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