McGill professors back students, call for external investigation on misconduct allegations

McGill and Concordia students walk out of classes on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. Karol Dahl/Global News

Update: This story has been updated to include a statement from McGill University.

Nearly 150 McGill University professors and academic staff have sent an open letter to the school administration, calling on it to launch an external investigation into how the university handles allegations of sexual misconduct.

In the open letter, the staff wrote that the university’s administration has “a commitment to uphold a learning environment where students feel safe and supported.”

On April 4, the Student’s Society of McGill University union (SSMU) sent a letter to the school administration, asking it to launch a third-party investigation into how complaints against professors in the school’s Faculty of Arts were being handled.

The union said that after not receiving an “adequate response” from the university, it decided to organize a walk out.

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READ MORE: ‘We’re here to learn, not to face harassment’: McGill, Concordia students stage walkout

Together with students from Concordia University, the McGill students were protesting what they call the university’s mismanagement of sexual misconduct allegations.

In the letter sent to the university on Monday, the professors said they stand in support of students who have come forward with their stories of sexual misconduct and with the student representatives who have supported these students.

“The lack of transparency concerning how complaints are handled against faculty members who abuse their positions of power in this way creates a toxic work and learning environment,” the letter reads.

We believe it is not only important for McGill to launch the external investigation called for by the SSMU and the 2,000+ individual students who signed the open letter, but to also publicly acknowledge the fact that this issue affects the entire McGill community and the university’s public reputation.”

READ MORE: Concordia student-run association says classes reassigned following sexual misconduct allegations

On Monday, McGill’s student union filed a complaint with the Minister of Higher Education under Bill 151, a provincial law that aims to prevent sexual violence in colleges and universities, after the university did not meet its demand for an investigation.

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In their complaint to the minister, the students asked for an “external investigation into the University’s handling of complaints against faculty members, at McGill’s expense.”

Late Tuesday night, Global News received a statement from McGill University stating that the school’s principal and vice-chancellor, Professor Suzanne Fortier, will be meeting with student leaders on Wednesday morning “to discuss how the university handles the intake and investigation of alleged sexual misconduct cases and how to continue improving our policies and procedures.”

It goes on to say Fortier will address the McGill Senate, which is made up of faculty members, staff, students, administrators and board members, on this topic Thursday.

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