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Climate Review of the Department of English of Concordia University: A Path Forward

Prepared by: 

Me Pierrette Rayle, Retired Justice of the Quebec Court of Appeal
Alain Reid, MPs, CHRP, Partner, Business Psychologist
François Rabbat, PhD, Organizational Psychologist


The Findings


Over the years, the University has adopted certain policies and rules which reflect its mission and promote civility, equity, respect, non-discrimination and appreciation of diversity. The Code of Rights and Responsibilities, Code of Ethics and Safe Disclosure Policy Applicable to Employees of Concordia University and its Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship Guidelines, the Policy on Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Psychological Harassment and the Policy regarding Sexual Violence constitute examples of such policies.

The University also makes available numerous resources for its students and employees who have experienced misconduct of any kind such as the Office of Rights and Responsibilities, the Sexual Assault Resource Centre and the Campus Wellness & Support Services.

We recognize that these concrete initiatives are relevant solutions that address the issues described in the present report. In order to further improve the climate of the Department of English, we recommend that the University build upon what has already been put into place and implement the recommendations made by the Task Force as well as the recommendations set forth below:

1. The University must actively promote all of its values of civility, equity, respect, non-discrimination and appreciation of diversity. The University must ensure that all faculty members, staff, students, new employees and members of the community are made aware of these values. The University must assert its commitment that it will not tolerate any form of misconduct and continue to undertake to implement any and all appropriate measures. There must be one clear message as to what is expected from all and that misconduct will not be tolerated.

2. Educational and prevention training of faculty members and staff should, if it does not already, include the following items :

  • The University’s fundamental values enshrined in its policies;
  • The notion of what constitutes a romantic or sexual relationship (i.e. including a single date or sexual encounter);
  • Guidance on the notion and requirement for consent and what can impact upon consent;
  • Education regarding the complexities and responsibilities involving power imbalance relationships;
  • The applicable processes of any disclosure of any conflict of interest and removal of supervisory functions (i.e. a disclosure must be made immediately);
  • The consequences and sanctions resulting from a lack of, or a delayed disclosure; and
  • Sensitivity training on newly emerging cultural issues.

3. Faculty members and staff should receive additional education or training with respect to the various formal and informal reporting options or resources available to students who have experienced any form of misconduct. Faculty members and staff should also be aware as to how to properly deal with and support a student coming forward with a complaint.

Any faculty member or staff that is newly assigned to a position in authority within the Department of English should receive additional in-depth training in this regard.

4. Not only should students also be the subject of additional awareness campaigns regarding the various informal and formal reporting options, the University should also ensure that the information pertaining to applicable processes for these options be readily available to students and clearly explained at the outset of any complaint.

5. The University should assign a contact person (liaison function) for complainants involved in ongoing investigations in order to share information and answer questions regarding processes.

6. New hires should read, accept and sign all relevant policies, including those pertaining to romantic and sexual relationships between instructors and students. The University should also ensure that these policies and the values contained in them are well understood by any new hire. There should be a particular emphasis regarding the University’s fundamental values, the Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship Guidelines, conflict of interest, obligations and consequences in this regard, the University’s obligation to provide its community with a safe and secure environment and the serious impact of any failure to do so.

7. In order to reduce perceived favoritism, the Department of English should develop and implement a selection process for publication opportunities, writing awards, employment opportunities and internships. Mixed juries or blind selection of works are some examples of what could be considered by the Department of English. The University should be mindful of the importance of providing equal opportunities for all students and a clearly defined selection process.

8. The University should prohibit holding classes in bars.

9. The University should create explicit guidelines regarding social gatherings attended by students and faculty members (including a statement to the effect that no faculty member should ever incite a student to consume alcohol or drugs).

10. The University should create explicit guidelines establishing under what conditions classes can be given outside of the University’s premises.

11. The Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence should, in two (2) years, conduct a review of the climate of the Department of English in order to assess the state of the climate and take any appropriate actions.

12. The University should organize a workshop with the Department of English faculty members and staff to discuss the present recommendations and to provide training and education on all of the issues at the origin of the Climate Review.

13. The Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence should be mandated to review and implement the present recommendations.


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