Graeme Hamilton | November 13, 2014
MONTREAL — The stickers plastered over the professors’ doors last week left little doubt that the three men were accused of something reprehensible. “No to rape culture. Break the silence,” the stickers read. “Harassment, touching, voyeurism, assault. Zero tolerance.”
The shaming of the Université du Québec à Montréal humanities professors continued online, where a student association and campus feminist groups shared photos of the defaced doors in which the targets’ names were clearly visible.
But no formal complaints against the professors have been filed with the university, so they remain in the dark about what they are alleged to have done.
“There was a sticker denouncing sexism, harassment, and if you carefully study Facebook statuses, a post to the effect that ‘if they got the stickers they must have deserved it,’ ” one of the professors wrote in an email Thursday. “But there has not even been an anonymous accusation of harassment. Strange indeed how things are developing.”
Some at the university are cheering the action as evidence of a realignment of the traditional power structure. Parallels have been drawn with the campaign to acknowledge unreported sexual assaults that has taken wing on Twitter since the firing of CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi.
“It is crucial that the assailants and the harassers who have positions of authority within UQAM be held responsible for their actions and admit their assaulting and harassing behaviour toward women students,” the association of humanities students, known by its French acronym AFESH, wrote in a Facebook post justifying its publication of the photos.
“We unreservedly support women students in humanities and throughout UQAM as well as their right to denounce publicly. Solidarity!”
The campaign has sparked a debate on the downtown campus, known for its radical politics. A number of commenters on the AFESH Facebook page accused the association of participating in a witch-hunt. “What you have just done is bullying and harassment,” one graduate wrote, “except that as usual, you are so convinced of having the truth that you do not question anything. Horrible.”
But others have said women are left with no other choice because the university’s official complaints procedure seldom yields results. An anti-sexism collective composed of UQAM students, employees and teachers, posted a testimonial Thursday from an anonymous former student who said she and many others never complained of harassment and assaults they experienced.
“The voices of women students, at the bottom of the university food chain, are seldom listened to, and the majority of complaints are abandoned because it’s the prof’s word against the student’s,” she wrote.
Martine Delvaux, a UQAM literature professor who organized a conference to be held Friday on professor-student relationships titled Sex, Love and Power, said the stickers at UQAM reflect the social climate created by the Ghomeshi scandal.
“There is a breach of trust. They do not have confidence in the official channels to file a complaint,” she said. But she finds the use of vigilante tactics at UQAM disturbing.
“It is very, very dangerous to function on that principle. You have to minimally believe in our justice system,” she said. “But as an institution, we have to examine why there is such a lack of trust.”
The university administration has denounced what it calls “acts of intimidation toward faculty members.” It met AFESH representatives Monday to warn them they could face a defamation suit for publishing the photos identifying the three professors, but the association refuses to take the pictures down. Meanwhile, the targeted professors have filed complaints claiming they are victims of harassment as a result of the vandalism of their workplace and the distribution of the photos.
Jenny Desrochers, director of UQAM’s media relations office, said anyone who feels she has been a victim of harassment should file an official complaint rather than resort to “sneaky” tactics.
“It is surprising, if it was young university students who did this, that they acted in such a way,” she said. “It is contrary to the values of a university.”
The behaviour is indeed contrary to a university’s values, but it is not surprising that some at UQAM would consider it legitimate. This is, after all, the school where masked students barged into the classes of students who had voted against striking during the 2012 tuition protests. They jumped on desks, flicked lights on and off and scrawled graffiti, all in defiance of a court injunction ordering that the classes not be disrupted. Ms. Desrochers was unable to say Thursday whether any students had been sanctioned for those actions.
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Commentary by the Ottawa Mens CentreFeminist studies are a breeding ground for Fasscist ideas that have taken over the Government of Ontario and the Judicial system in Canada.