We are writing in response to the release of the “Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships Guidelines” and the announcement of the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence.
As of January 26th, Concordia has released their Guidelines concerning student-instructor relationships. While these Guidelines were identified by Concordia administration as a key step towards mending the rapport between students, staff, and faculty, they ultimately fail to address the power imbalances of these relationships. It seems like there has been little change to the earlier “Code of Ethics and Safe Disclosure Policy Applicable to Employees of Concordia University” which previously governed these relationships. Those guidelines have already been in place and have failed—and will continue to fail—students. For this reason, SAGE’s current position on relationships between faculty and students is that they are not merely conflicts of interests; they are actually unethical.
Secondly, the Guidelines that are provided by the University remain ambiguous in their definitions and descriptions. For instance, in the case of a graduate student who occupies the role of “Instructor,” how would their relationship with a non-teaching graduate student (or “Student”) be interpreted in light of these Guidelines? A similar example would be that of a graduate student “Instructor” who has an undergraduate partner—according to the current wording, it is unclear whether this is a relationship representing a conflict of interest that should be disclosed. SAGE has requested clarification of the terms used in the newly-released Guidelines, in order to accurately reflect their impact on both Faculty and graduate students. Furthermore, the problem areas previously identified and raised by SAGE and CASE, such as off-campus events, remain entirely unaddressed in the most recent iteration of the Guidelines.
We are similarly disappointed by the manner in which the Task Force has been deployed. While a unit to address the instances of sexual misconduct at Concordia is welcome, we strongly disagree with the choice of letting the administration appoint the undergraduate and graduate students who sit on the Task Force. The selection process outlined by the call for applications indicates that the student representatives will be selected by the Chair and vice-Chairs of the Task Force. However, we firmly believe that in order to function ethically, student representatives should be elected or appointed by students—not by Concordia staff, faculty, or administration. Additionally, the CSU has made the compelling argument that the selection process as it stands is, in fact, illegal.
We hope the University administration will reconsider this course of action. While we desire a timely process, we cannot condone haste at the expense of care and diligence.