‘And then a man said it’: Concordia grad says read between the lines of sexual misconduct allegations

Julie McIsaac says people should read between the lines of Mike Spry's sexual misconduct blog about Concordia University's creative writing program. Julie McIsaac

Julie McIsaac says she isn’t buying Mike Spry’s blog about abuse in Concordia University‘s creative writing program.

“He’s being valued in the media for painting himself as this fly on the wall who saw his mentors and colleagues behaving badly, but he was much more of an active participant,” she said.

She took to writing her own blog post to bring another voice — a female voice — to the conversation.

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“I did think, ‘what if he [Spry] comes after me?’ but I don’t really care,” she told Global News.
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“So many people have reached out to tell me, ‘Thank you for writing this.'”

McIsaac has both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in creative writing from Concordia and tells Global News that she and Spry were in a relationship during their time at the university.

She said she also knew him professionally when she attended the Summer Literary Seminars (SLS) in Lithuania.

READ MORE: Concordia University reacts to sexual misconduct allegations

She was a grad student; he was the director of the event.

“He was deeply sexist. He would berate women for behaviour that was not bad. He would yell at them in ways that was so demeaning,” she said.

“One time he said to me, ‘it’s hard to work with women because you never know when they’re going to cry.'”

After the event, McIsaac said the two broke up and have since lost touch. But after reading his blog post, felt she had to speak out.

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READ MORE: Concordia University president ‘disturbed’ by sexual misconduct allegations

She said she couldn’t believe that he had “made this name for himself for being the whistleblower” and points out that many other women have written about misconduct in the creative writing department, but did not get the same attention.

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“People [have written to me] saying, ‘this is all very triggering and I’ve been crying a lot about it lately,” she told Global News.

Though she continues to write in her spare time, McIsaac admitted many women stopped because of their negative experiences in the program.

“You [Spry] have these three books. What about all the great work we don’t even know about because of women who left?” she said.

READ MORE: Concordia University issues public safety alert after sex assault, drugging reports

Spry did not return Global News’ request for comment.

A drunken encounter

During her undergraduate days, McIsaac recalls that she was coached by one of the creative writing professors and would see him at an “unnamed Saint-Laurent bar” that everyone would go to.

WATCH BELOW: Sexual misconduct at Concordia

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“There was definitely this pretense of ‘I heard you’re a great writer, I want to talk to you about your work,” she recalled.

“And then at the end of the night it’s, ‘you’re beautiful, can I walk you home?’ Trying to kiss me. It’s a straight line from your work’s great, let’s sleep together.”

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She said the experience made her question her abilities as a writer.

“It was clearly just a ruse to try and sleep with me. What does that mean? Should I just give up? Was it a lie?” McIsaac said.

“It leaves you very insecure.”


Earlier this week, Concordia University president Alan Shepard denied hearing of any allegations before Spry’s blog post.

“I’ve been reading it’s an open secret, but it was not an open secret to me,” Shepard said earlier in the week.

“I wasn’t aware. If I had been aware, I would’ve acted sooner.”

McIsaac told Global News she finds it disturbing if the university was aware of the rumours — and even more so if it didn’t.

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“He said in one of his press talks he tried to make an effort to keep an ear to the ground to hear about these open secrets and he didn’t know anything about it.”

The university has since launched an investigation into the matter.

READ MORE: Concordia and McGill react to Quebec’s new campus sexual assault bill

Despite all the controversy that has come to light, McIsaac said she still holds on to good memories of her time at the university.

“I flourished there and met a lot of great people there,” she said.

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