Calls for independent probe into alleged sexual misconduct by McGill professors

Over a thousand people so far have signed an open letter calling on McGill University to launch an independent investigation into the way the office of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts handles complaints of alleged sexual misconduct by some of its professors.

The open letter from the Students' Society of McGill University alleges it's an open secret that some professors in the Faculty of Arts are known for alleged misconduct but that little or nothing has been done about it.

Connor Spencer, VP, External Affairs, said the complaints range from harassment in and out of the classroom, to engaging in abusive relationships with graduate students and inappropriate behaviour during office hours, to students being asked out by professors on the GPS dating app Tinder.

"Students feeling they are obliged to do extra, outside-of-classroom work that is not necessarily related to the class's work and not wanting to say no because they feel it would inadvertantly affect their academic careers," Spencer told a news conference.

Alleged sexual misconduct by some members of #McGill Faculty of Arts: @theSSMU VP Internal Affairs Maya Koparkar says it's time to put their concerns out in the open. #CJAD

— Shuyee Lee (@sleeCJAD) April 5, 2018

In a statement, Louis Arseneault, Vice-Principal, Communications and External Relations said they have a complaints system in place and that they take these matters "very seriously."

"Every report or complaint of sexual misconduct, abuse of authority through sexual misconduct or "predatory behaviour" that contains sufficiently detailed facts is investigated. If there are findings of sexual misconduct of any kind, appropriate measures are taken, following due process," said the statement.

#McGill University says they have a complaints process in place and they take such matters "very seriously," & every complaint "that contains sufficiently detailed facts is investigated." @theSSMU VP External Connor Spencer who has seen the process first hand is skeptical. #CJAD

— Shuyee Lee (@sleeCJAD) April 5, 2018

The student association argues that the complaints process is so convoluted and complicated that it discourages students from stepping forward.

"One of the things that I've heard very often from folks is, 'I didn't come forward because I didn't think they would believe me,' " said Spencer.

"A re-occurring thing that I've also heard from folks who have tried to pursue complaints is that the violence they experienced was bad but their experience dealing with the university after was even worse."

The student union said they'd like to see the kind of investigation launched by Concordia University when allegations of sexual misconduct within its creative writing program surfaced earlier this year.