MONTREAL — After three professors had their office doors festooned with decals citing the university’s sexual harassment policy, the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) has launched an inquiry into the incident.
But the inquiry does not centre on any allegations of harassment against the professors, who UQAM officials said have had no complaints filed against them.
The inquiry focuses on allegations of defamation against possible students who placed the stickers on their office doors.
“It’s a form of slander, a form of harassment. People are declared guilty by association with a sticker,” said Marc Turgeon, the vice-principal of student life at UQAM.
“We can’t accept such actions.”
The incident occurred earlier in the week when activists who apparently are part of a Facebook group called “Les Hysteriques” pasted the stickers on the doors of three professors at the university.
The stickers included slogans like “zero tolerance!” and cited “Politique 16,” which is the section of the university’s rules that deal with sexual harassment.
According to Turgeon, although the university has revamped its policy in the past year, the stickers were not part of any university-sponsored promotional campaign, and were likely made by the activists.
The incident instantly ignited polarized reactions that ran the gamut between accusations of defamation and vigilantism on one side, and frustrated victims of assault who say the system of policing unwanted sexual advances is ineffective.
“I think what’s happening at UQAM is that women are fed up,” said Sue Montgomery, a Montreal Gazette reporter who recently started the hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported and came forward as the victim of assault herself.
According to Montgomery, the recent scandals at the CBC and Parliament Hill have brought these issues into the spotlight.
“I think it’s scaring people. We are taking control here.”
Lana Belber is part of a contingent of McGill University students who are going to Parliament Hill to meet with women MPs in an effort to break down gender barriers in politics.
She was also shocked by the situation at UQAM.
“I think that this shows that there is something fundamentally flawed with the sexual assault policy at UQAM,” Belber said. “Because if the victims didn’t feel comfortable coming forward, then there is something wrong with the system.”
“As UQAM officials denounce what occurred as an act of vigilantism,” she continued.
“They do admit that the system there is imperfect.”
The issue could have wider implications for other institutions.
“A lot of universities are having the same reflection,” Turgeon said.
“We can do better as far as the victim’s concerned.”
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