Full-Text Political Transcripts April 28, 2018: Michelle Wolf’s remarks comedy set speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Michelle Wolf’s speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Watch full remarks on C-SPAN

Source: WaPo, 4-28-18

Good evening. Good evening. Here we are, the White House correspondents’ dinner: Like a porn star says when she’s about to have sex with a Trump, let’s get this over with.

Yup, kiddos, this is who you’re getting tonight. I’m going to skip a lot of the normal pleasantries. We’re at a Hilton; it’s not nice. This is on C-SPAN; no one watches that. Trump is president; it’s not ideal.

The White House Correspondents’ Association, thank you for having me. The monkfish was fine.

And just a reminder to everyone, I’m here to make jokes. I have no agenda. I’m not trying to get anything accomplished. So everyone that’s here from Congress, you should feel right at home.

Yeah, before we get too far, a little bit about me. A lot of you might not know who I am. I’m 32 years old, which is an odd age: 10 years too young to host this event and 20 years too old for Roy Moore.

I know, he almost got elected, yeah. It was fun. It was fun.

Honestly, I never really thought I’d be a comedian. But I did take an aptitude test in seventh grade — and this is 100 percent true — I took an aptitude test in seventh grade, and it said in my best profession was a clown or a mime.

Well, at first it said clown, and then it heard my voice and then was like, “Or maybe mime. Think about mime.”

And I know as much as some of you might want me to, it’s 2018 and I am a woman, so you cannot shut me up — unless you have Michael Cohen wire me $130,000. Michael, you can find me on Venmo under my porn star name, Reince Priebus.

Reince just gave a thumbs up. Okay.

Now, people are saying America is more divided than ever, but I think no matter what you support politically, we can all agree that this is a great time for craft stores. Because of all the protests, poster board has been flying off the shelves faster than Robert Mueller can say, “You’ve been subpoenaed.”

Thanks to Trump, pink yarn sales are through the roof. After Trump got elected, women started knitting those p—y hats. When I first saw them, I was like, “That’s a p—y?” I guess mine just has a lot more yarn on it.

Yeah, shoulda done more research before you got me to do this.

Now, there is a lot to cover tonight. There’s a lot to go over. I can’t get to everything. I know there’s a lot of people that want me to talk about Russia and Putin and collusion, but I’m not going to do that because there’s also a lot of liberal media here. And I’ve never really wanted to know what any of you look like when you orgasm.

Except for maybe you, Jake Tapper. I bet it’s something like this: “Okay, that’s all the time we have.”

It is kind of crazy that the Trump campaign was in contact with Russia when the Hillary campaign wasn’t even in contact with Michigan. It’s a direct flight; it’s so close.

Of course, Trump isn’t here, if you haven’t noticed. He’s not here. And I know, I know, I would drag him here myself. But it turns out the president of the United States is the one p—y you’re not allowed to grab.

He said it first. Yeah, he did. Do you remember? Good.

Now, I know people really want me to go after Trump tonight, but I think we should give the president credit when he deserves it. Like, he pulled out the Paris agreement, and I think he should get credit for that because he said he was going to pull out and then he did. And that’s a refreshing quality in a man. Most men are like, “I forgot. I’ll get you next time.” Oh, there’s going to be a next time? People say romance is dead.

People call Trump names all the time. And, look, I could call Trump a racist, a misogynist or xenophobic or unstable or incompetent or impotent. But he’s heard all of those, and he doesn’t care. So, tonight, I’m going to try to make fun of the president in a new way — in a way that I think will really get him. Mr. President, I don’t think you’re very rich.

Like, I think you might be rich in Idaho, but in New York, you’re doing fine. Trump is the only person that still watches “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” and thinks, “Me.”

Although, I’m not sure you’d get very far. He’d get to, like, the third question and be, like, “I have to phone a ‘Fox & Friend.’”

We’re going to try a fun new thing, okay? I’m going to say, “Trump is so broke,” and you guys go, “How broke is he?” All right?

Trump is so broke.

[AUDIENCE: How broke is he?]

He has to fly failed business class.

Trump is so broke.

[AUDIENCE: How broke is he?]

He looked for foreign oil in Don Jr.’s hair.

Trump is so broke.

[AUDIENCE: How broke is he?]

He — Southwest used him as one of their engines.

I know, it’s so soon. It’s so soon for that joke. Why did she tell it? It’s so soon.

Trump is so broke.

[AUDIENCE: How broke is he?]

He had to borrow money from the Russians, and now he’s compromised and not susceptible to blackmail and possibly responsible for the collapse of the republic.

Yay. It’s a fun game.

Trump is racist, though. He loves white nationalists, which is a weird term for a Nazi. Calling a Nazi a white nationalist is like calling a pedophile a kid friend or Harvey Weinstein a ladies’ man — which isn’t really fair; he also likes plants.Trump’s also an idea guy. He’s got loads of ideas. You gotta love him for that. He wants to give teachers guns, and I support that, ’cause then they can sell them for things they need, like supplies. A lot of protractors.

A lot of people want Trump to be impeached. I do not. Because just when you think Trump is awful, you remember Mike Pence. Mike Pence is what happens when Anderson Cooper isn’t gay.

Mike Pence is the kind of guy that brushes his teeth and then drinks orange juice and thinks, “Mmm.” Mike Pence is also very anti-choice. He thinks abortion is murder, which, first of all, don’t knock it till you try it. And when you do try it, really knock it. You know, you got to get that baby out of there.

And, yes, sure, you can groan all you want. I know a lot of you are very antiabortion. You know, unless it’s the one you got for your secret mistress. It’s fun how values can waver. But good for you.

Mike Pence is a weirdo, though. He’s a weird little guy. He won’t meet with other women without his wife present. When people first heard this, they were like, “That’s crazy.” But now, in this current climate, they’re like, “That’s a good witness.”

Which, of course, brings me to the Me Too movement; it’s probably the reason I’m here. They were like, “A woman’s probably not going to jerk off in front of anyone, right?” And to that, I say, “Don’t count your chickens.” There’s a lot of party.

Now, I’ve worked in a lot of male-dominated fields. Before comedy, I worked at a tech company and, before that, I worked on Wall Street. And, honestly, I’ve never really been sexually harassed. That being said, I did work at Bear Stearns in 2008. So, although I haven’t been sexually harassed, I’ve definitely been f—ed. Yeah, that whole company went down on me without my consent. And no men got in trouble for that one either.

No, things are changing. Men are being held accountable. You know, Al Franken was ousted. That one really hurt liberals. But I believe it was the great Ted Kennedy who said, “Wow, that’s crazy; I murdered a woman.”

“Chappaquiddick” in theaters now.

I did have a lot of jokes — I had a lot of jokes about Cabinet members, but I had to scrap all of those because everyone has been fired. You guys are going through Cabinet members quicker than Starbucks throws out black people.

No, don’t worry, they’re having an afternoon. That’ll solve it. We just needed an afternoon.

Mitch McConnell isn’t here. He had a prior engagement. He’s finally getting his neck circumcised. Mazel.

Paul Ryan couldn’t make it. Of course, he’s already been circumcised. Unfortunately, while they were down there, they also took his b—s.

Yeah, bye, Paul. Great acting, though, in that video.

Republicans are easy to make fun of. It’s like shooting fish in a Chris Christie. But I also want to make fun of Democrats. Democrats are harder to make fun of because you guys don’t do anything.

People think you might flip the House and Senate this November, but you guys always find a way to mess it up. You’re somehow going to lose by 12 points to a guy named Jeff Pedophile Nazi Doctor. Oh, he’s a doctor?

We should definitely talk about the women in the Trump administration. There’s Kellyanne Conway. Man, she has the perfect last name for what she does: Conway. It’s like if my name was Michelle Jokes Frizzy Hair Small T–s.

You guys gotta stop putting Kellyanne on your shows. All she does is lie. If you don’t give her a platform, she has nowhere to lie. It’s like that old saying: If a tree falls in the woods, how do we get Kellyanne under that tree?

I’m not suggesting she gets hurt; just stuck. Stuck under a tree.

Incidentally, a tree falls in the woods is Scott Pruitt’s definition of porn. Yeah, we all have our kinks.

There’s also, of course, Ivanka. She was supposed to be an advocate for women, but it turns out she’s about as helpful to women as an empty box of tampons. She’s done nothing to satisfy women. So, I guess, like father, like daughter.

Oh, you don’t think he’s good in bed. Come on.

She does clean up nice, though. Ivanka cleans up nice. She’s the Diaper Genie of the administration. On the outside, she looks sleek but the inside — it’s still full of s—.

And, of course, we have Sarah Huckabee Sanders. We’re graced with Sarah’s presence tonight. I have to say I’m a little star-struck. I love you as Aunt Lydia in “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Mike Pence, if you haven’t seen it, you would love it.

Every time Sarah steps up to the podium, I get excited because I’m not really sure what we’re going to get: you know, a press briefing, a bunch of lies or divided into softball teams. “It’s shirts and skins, and this time, don’t be such a little b—-, Jim Acosta.”

I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. Like, she burns facts, and then she uses the ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like, maybe she’s born with it; maybe it’s lies.

It’s probably lies.

And I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders. You know, is it Sarah Sanders? Is Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Is it Cousin Huckabee? Is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? Like, what’s Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know: Aunt Coulter.

We’ve got our friends at CNN here. Welcome, guys, it’s great to have you. You guys love breaking news, and you did it. You broke it. Good work.

The most useful information on CNN is when Anthony Bourdain tells me where to eat noodles.

Fox News is here. So, you know what that means, ladies: Cover your drinks. Seriously.

People want me to make fun of Sean Hannity tonight, but I cannot do that; this dinner is for journalists.

We’ve got MSNBC here. MSNBC’s news slogan is, “This is who we are.” Guys, it’s not a good slogan. “This is who we are” is what your mom thinks the sad show on NBC is called. “Did you watch ‘This Is Who We Are’ this week? Someone left on a Crockpot, and everyone died.”

I watch “Morning Joe” every morning. We now know that Mika and Joe are engaged. Congratulations, you guys. It’s like when a Me Too works out.

We also have Rachel Maddow. We cannot forget about Rachel Maddow. She is the Peter Pan of MSNBC. But instead of never growing up, she never gets to the point. Watching Rachel Maddow is like going to Target. You went in for milk, but you left with shampoo, candles and the entire history of the Byzantine Empire. “I didn’t need this.”

And, of course, Megyn Kelly. What would I do without Megyn Kelly? You know, probably be more proud of women.

Megyn Kelly got paid $23 million by NBC, then NBC didn’t let Megyn go to the Winter Olympics. Why not? She’s so white, cold and expensive, she might as well be the Winter Olympics.

And, by the way, Megyn, Santa’s black. The weird old guy going through your chimney was Bill O’Reilly. You might want to put a flue on it or something.

There’s a lot of print media here. There’s a ton of you guys, but I’m not going to go after print media tonight because it’s illegal to attack an endangered species.

Buy newspapers.

There’s a ton of news right now; a lot is going on, and we have all these 24-hour news networks, and we could be covering everything. But, instead, we’re covering like three topics. Every hour, it’s Trump, Russia, Hillary and a panel of four people who remind you why you don’t go home for Thanksgiving.

“Milk comes from nuts now, all ’cause of the gays.”

You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you.

He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him. And if you’re gonna profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money because he doesn’t have any.

Trump is so broke.

[AUDIENCE: How broke is he?]

He grabs p—ies ’cause he thinks there might be loose change in them. All right, like an immigrant who was brought here by his parents and didn’t do anything wrong, I gotta get the f— out of here. Good night.

Flint still doesn’t have clean water.

Full-Text Political Transcripts April 25, 2018: France’s President Emmanuel Macron’s Joint Address to US Congress

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

France’s President Emmanuel Macron’s Joint Address to US Congress

Source: Voltaire.net, 4-25-18

Mr. Vice President,
Honorable members of the United States Congress,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour for France, for the French people, and for me, to be received in this sanctuary of democracy, where so much of the history of the United States has been written.

We are surrounded today with images, portraits and symbols, which remind us that France has participated – with heart in hand – in the story of this great nation. From the very beginning.

We have fought shoulder-to-shoulder many battles, starting with those that gave birth to the United States of America.

Since then, we have shared a common vision for humanity. Our two nations are rooted in the same soil, grounded in the same ideals of the American and French Revolutions. We have worked together for the universal ideals of liberty, tolerance, and equal rights.

And yet, this is also about our human, gutsy, personal bonds throughout history.

In 1778, the French philosopher Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin met in Paris. John Adams tells the story that after they had shaken hands, “they embraced each other by hugging one another in their arms and kissing each other’s cheeks”.

It can remind you of something!

And this morning, I stand under the protective gaze of La Fayette, right behind me. As a brave young man, he fought alongside George Washington and forged a tight relationship, fuelled by respect and affection. La Fayette used to call himself a “son of the United States”. And, in 1792, George Washington became a son of America and France, when our First Republic awarded citizenship to him.

Here we stand, in your beautiful capital city, whose plans were conceived by a French architect, Charles L’Enfant.

The miracle of the relationship between the United States and France is that we have never lost this special bond deeply rooted not only in our history, but also in our flesh.

This is why I invited President Donald Trump for the first Bastille Day Parade of my presidency, on 14 July last year. Today, President Trump’s decision to offer France his first state visit to Washington has a particular resonance, because it represents the continuity of our shared history, in a troubled world. And let me thank your president and the First Lady for this wonderful invitation to my wife and myself.

I am also very grateful and I would like also to thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for welcoming me on this occasion.

And I would like to especially thank you, Mr Speaker, for your invitation. I want you to know how much I appreciate this unique gesture. Thank you, sir!

The strength of our bonds is the source of our shared ideals.

This is what united us in the struggle against imperialism during the First World War. Then in the fight against Nazism during the Second World War. This is what united us again during the era of the Stalinist threat, and now we lean on that strength to fight against terrorist groups.

Let us for a moment transport ourselves to the past. Imagine, this is 4 July 1916. Back then, the United States had not entered World War I. And yet, a young American poet enlisted in the ranks of our Foreign Legion, because he loved France and he loved the cause of freedom.

This young American would fight and die on Independence Day at Belloy-en-Santerre, not far from Amiens, my home town, after having written these words: “I have a rendez-vous with death.” The name of this young American was Alan Seeger. A statue stands in his honour in Paris.

Since 1776, we, the American and French people, have had a rendez-vous with freedom.

And with it come sacrifices.

That is why we are very honoured by the presence today of Robert Jackson Ewald, a World War II veteran. Robert Jackson Ewald took part in the D-Day landing. He fought for our freedom, 74 years ago. Sir, on behalf of France: thank you. I bow to your courage and your devotion.

In recent years, our nations have suffered wrenching losses simply because of our values and our taste for freedom. Because these values are the very ones those terrorists precisely hate.

Tragically, on 11 September 2001, many Americans had an unexpected rendez-vous with death. Over the last five years, my country and Europe also experienced terrible terrorist attacks.

And we shall never forget these innocent victims, nor the incredible resilience of our people in the aftermath. It is a horrific price to pay for freedom, for democracy.

That is why we stand together in Syria and in the Sahel today, to fight together against these terrorist groups who seek to destroy everything for which we stand.

We have encountered countless rendez-vous with death, because we have this constant attachment to freedom and democracy. As emblazoned on the flags of the French revolutionaries, “Vivre libre ou mourir”. Live free or die.

Thankfully, freedom is also the source of all that is worth living for. Freedom is a call to think and to love. It is a call to our will. That is why, in times of peace, France and the United States were able to forge unbreakable bonds, from the grist of painful memories.

The most indestructible, the most powerful, the most definitive knot between us is the one that ties the true purpose of our peoples to advance, as Abraham Lincoln said, the “unfinished business” of democracy.

Indeed, our two societies have stood up to advance human rights for all. They have engaged in a continual dialogue to unpack this “unfinished business”.

In this Capitol Rotunda, the bust of Martin Luther King, assassinated 50 years ago, reminds us of the spiration of African-American leaders, artists, writers who have become part of our common heritage. We celebrate among them James Baldwin and Richard Wright, whom France hosted on our soil.

We have shared the history of civil rights. France’s Simone de Beauvoir became a respected figure in the movement for gender equality in America in the 70s. Women’s rights have long been a fundamental driver for our societies on both sides of the Atlantic. This explains why the #MeToo movement has recently had such a deep resonance in France.

Democracy is made of day-to-day conversations and mutual understanding between citizens.

It is easier and deeper when we have the ability to speak each other’s language. The heart of Francophonie also beats here, in the United States, from New Orleans to Seattle. I want this heart to beat even harder in American schools all across the country.

Democracy relies also on the faculty of freely describing the present and the capacity to invent the future. This is what culture brings.

Thousands of examples come to mind when we think of the exchanges between our cultures across the centuries. From Thomas Jefferson, who was Ambassador to France and built his house in Monticello based on a building he loved in Paris, to Hemingway’s novel Moveable Feast celebrating the capital city of France. From our great 19th-century French writer Chateaubriand bringing to the French people the dream of America’s open spaces, forests and mountains to Faulkner’s novels crafted in the deep South, but first read in France where they quickly gained literary praise. From jazz coming from Louisiana and the blues from Mississippi finding in France an enthusiastic public to the American fascination for Impressionists, and the French modern and contemporary arts. These exchanges are vibrant in so many fields, from cinema to fashion, from design to high cuisine, from sports to visual arts.

Medicine and scientific research as well as business and innovation are also a significant part of our shared journey. The United States is France’s first scientific partner.

Our economic ties create hundreds of thousands of jobs, on both sides of the Atlantic.

The story of France and the United States is a story of an endless dialogue made of common dreams, of a common struggle for dignity and progress. It is the best achievement of our democratic principles and values.

This is this very special relationship.

But we must remember the warning of President Theodore Roosevelt: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, handed on for them to do the same”.

This is an urgent reminder indeed. Because now, going beyond our bilateral ties, beyond our very special relationship, Europe and the United States must face together the global challenges of this century. And we cannot take for granted our transatlantic history and bonds. At the core, our Western values themselves are at risk.

We have to succeed facing these challenges, and we cannot succeed forgetting our principles and our history.

In fact, the 21st century has brought a series of new threats and new challenges that our ancestors might not ever have imagined.

Our strongest beliefs are challenged by the rise of a yet unknown new world order. Our societies are concerned about the future of their children.

All of us gathered here in this noble Chamber, we – elected officials – all share the responsibility to demonstrate that democracy remains the best answer to the questions and doubts that arise today.

Even if the foundations of our progress are disrupted, we must stand firmly and fight to make our principles prevail.

But we bear another responsibility inherited from our collective history. Today, the international community needs to step up our game and build the 21st century world order, based on the perennial principles we established together after World War II.

The rule of law, the fundamental values on which we secured peace for 70 years are now questioned by urgent issues that require our joint action.

Together with our international allies and partners, we are facing inequalities created by globalization; threats to the planet, our common good; attacks on democracies through the rise of illiberalism; and the destabilization of our international community by new powers and criminal states.

All these risks aggrieve our citizens.

Both in the United States and in Europe we are living in a time of anger and fear, because of these current global threats.

But these feelings do not build anything. You can play with fears and anger for a time. But they do not construct anything. Anger only freezes and weakens us. And, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt said during his first inaugural speech, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

Therefore, let me say we have two possible ways ahead.

We can choose isolationism, withdrawal, and nationalism. This is an option.

It can be tempting to us as a temporary remedy to our fears.

But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world. It will not douse, but inflame, the fears of our citizens. We have to keep our eyes wide open to the new risks, right in front of us.

I am convinced that if we decide to open our eyes wider, we will be stronger. We will overcome the dangers. We will not let the rampaging work of extreme nationalism shake a world full of hopes for greater prosperity.

It is a critical moment. If we do not act with urgency as a global community, I am convinced that the international institutions, including the United Nations and NATO, will no longer be able to exercise their mandate and stabilizing influence. We would then inevitably and severely undermine the liberal order we built after World War II.

Other powers, with a stronger strategy and ambition, will then fill the void we would leave empty.

Other powers will not hesitate one second to advocate their own model, to shape the 21st century world order.

Personally, if you ask me, I do not share the fascination for new strong powers, the abandonment of freedom, and the illusion of nationalism.

Therefore, distinguished members of Congress, let us push them aside, write our own history and birth the future we want.

We have to shape our common answers to the global threats that we are facing.

The only option then is to strengthen our cooperation. We can build the 21st century world order, based on a new breed of multilateralism. Based on a more effective, accountable, and results-oriented multilateralism. A strong multilateralism.

This requires more than ever the United States’ involvement, as your role was decisive for creating and safeguarding today’s free world. The United States invented this multilateralism. You are the one now who has to help to preserve and reinvent it.

This strong multilateralism will not outshine our national cultures and national identities. It is exactly the other way around. A strong multilateralism will allow our cultures and identities to be respected, to be protected and to flourish freely together.

Why? Because precisely our own culture is based, on both sides of the Atlantic, on this unique taste for freedom, on this unique attachment to liberty and peace. This strong multilateralism is the unique option compatible with our nations, our cultures, our identities.

With the US President, with the support of every 535 members of this joint session, representing the whole American nation, we can actively contribute together to building the 21st-century world order, for our people.

The United States and Europe have a historical role in this respect, because it is the only way to defend what we believe in, to promote our universal values, to express strongly that human rights, the rights of minorities and shared liberty are the true answer to the disorders of the world.

I believe in these rights and values.

I believe that against ignorance, we have education. Against inequalities, development. Against cynicism, trust and good faith. Against fanaticism, culture. Against disease and epidemics, medicine. Against the threats on the planet, science.

I believe in concrete action. I believe the solutions are in our hands.

I believe in the liberation of the individual, and in the freedom and responsibility of everyone to build their own lives and pursue happiness.

I believe in the power of intelligently-regulated market economies. We are experiencing the positive impact of our current economic globalization, with innovation, with job creation. We see, however, the abuses of globalized capitalism, and digital disruptions, which jeopardize the stability of our economies and democracies.

I believe facing these challenges requires the opposite of massive deregulation and extreme nationalism. Commercial war is not the proper answer to these evolutions. We need free and fair trade, for sure. A commercial war opposing allies is not consistent with our mission, with our history, with our current commitments to global security. At the end of the day, it would destroy jobs, increase prices, and the middle class will have to pay for it.

I believe we can build the right answers to legitimate concerns regarding trade imbalances, excesses and overcapacities, by negotiating through the World Trade Organization and building cooperative solutions. We wrote these rules; we should follow them.

I believe we can address our citizens’ concerns regarding privacy and personal data. The recent Facebook hearings highlighted the necessity to preserve our citizens’ digital rights, all over the world, and protect their confidence in today’s digital tools of life.

The European Union passed a new regulation for data protection. I believe the United States and the European Union should cooperate to find the right balance between innovation and ethics, and harness the best of today’s revolutions in digital data and artificial intelligence.

I believe facing inequalities should push us to improve policy coordination within the G20 to reduce financial speculation, and create mechanisms to protect the middle class’s interest, because our middle classes are the backbone of our democracies.

I believe in building a better future for our children, which requires offering them a planet that is still habitable in 25 years.

Some people think that securing current industries – and their jobs – is more urgent than transforming our economies to meet the global challenge of climate change. I hear these concerns, but we must find a smooth transition to a low-carbon economy.

Because what is the meaning of our life, really, if we work and live destroying the planet, while sacrificing the future of our children?

What is the meaning of our life if our decision, our conscious decision, is to reduce the opportunities for our children and grandchildren?

By polluting the oceans, not mitigating CO2 emissions and destroying our biodiversity, we are killing our planet. Let us face it: there is no Planet B.

On this issue it may happen we have a disagreement between the United States and France. It may happen, like in all families. But that is, for me, a short-term disagreement. In the long run, we will have to face the same realities. We are citizens of the same planet.

We have to face it. Beyond some short-term disagreements, we have to work together.

With business leaders and local communities, in order to make our planet great again, and create new jobs and new opportunities, while safeguarding our Earth. And I am sure one day, the United States will come back and join the Paris agreement. And I am sure we can work together to fulfil with you the ambitions of the Global Compact on the environment.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I believe in democracy.

Many of our forebears were slain for the cause of freedom and human rights. With the great inheritance they gave us comes the responsibility to continue their mission in this new century and to preserve the perennial values handed to us and assure that today’s unprecedented innovations in science and technology remain in the service of liberty and in the preservation of our planet for the next generations.

To protect our democracies, we have to fight against the ever-growing virus of fake news, which exposes our people to irrational fear and imaginary risks. And let me attribute the fair copyright for this expression “fake news”, especially here.

Without reason, without truth, there is no real democracy — because democracy is about true choices and rational decisions. The corruption of information is an attempt to corrode the very spirit of our democracies.

We also have to fight against the terrorist propaganda that spreads out its fanaticism on the Internet. It has a gripping influence on some of our citizens and children. I want this fight to be part of our bilateral commitment, and we discussed with your President the importance of such an agenda.

I want this fight to be part of the G7 agenda because it deeply harms our rights and shared values.

The terrorist threat is even more dangerous when it is combined with the nuclear proliferation threat. We must therefore be stricter than ever with countries seeking to acquire the nuclear bomb.

That is why France supports fully the United States in its efforts to bring Pyongyang, through sanctions and negotiations, towards denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

As for Iran, our objective is clear: Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons. Not now, not in 5 years, not in 10 years. Never.

But this policy should never lead us to war in the Middle East. We must ensure stability, and respect sovereignty of the nations, including that one of Iran, which represents a great civilization.

Let us not replicate past mistakes in the region. Let us not be naïve on one side. Let us not create new walls ourselves on the other side.

There is an existing framework – called the JCPOA – to control the nuclear activity of Iran. We signed it at the initiative of the United States. We signed it, both the United States and France. That is why we cannot say we should get rid of it like that. But it is true to say that this agreement may not address all concerns, very important concerns. This is true. But we should not abandon it without having something substantial, more substantial, instead. That is my position. That is why France will not leave the JCPOA, because we signed it.

Your President and your country will have to take, in the current days and weeks, their responsibilities regarding this issue.

What I want to do, and what we decided together with your President, is that we can work on a more comprehensive deal addressing all these concerns. That is why we have to work on this more comprehensive deal based – as discussed with President Trump yesterday – on four pillars: the substance of the existing agreement, especially if you decide to leave it, the post-2025 period, in order to be sure that we will never have any military nuclear activity for Iran, the containment of the military influence of the Iranian regime in the region, and the monitoring of ballistic activity.

I think these four pillars, the ones I addressed before the General Assembly of the United Nations last September, are the ones which cover the legitimate fears of the United States and our allies in the region.

I think we have to start working now on these four pillars to build this new, comprehensive framework and to be sure that, whatever the decision of the United States will be, we will not leave the floor to the absence of rules.

We will not leave the floor to these conflicts of power in the Middle East, we will not fuel ourselves in increasing tensions and potential war.

That is my position, and I think we can work together to build this comprehensive deal for the whole region, for our people, because I think it fairly addresses our concerns. That is my position.

And this containment – I mentioned it one of these pillars – Is necessary in Yemen, in Lebanon, in Iraq and also in Syria.

Building a sustainable peace in a united and inclusive Syria requires, indeed, that all powers in the region respect the sovereignty of its people, and the diversity of its communities.

In Syria, we work very closely together. After prohibited weapons were used against the population by the regime of Bashar al-Assad two weeks ago, the United States and France, together with the United Kingdom, acted to destroy chemical facilities and to restore the credibility of the international community.

This action was one of the best evidences of this strong multilateralism. And I want to pay a special tribute for our soldiers, because they did a great job in this region and on this occasion.

Beyond this action, we will together work for a humanitarian solution in the short term, on the ground, and contribute actively to a lasting political solution to put an end to this tragic conflict. And I think one of the very important decisions we took together with President Trump was precisely to include Syria in this large framework for the overall region, and to decide to work together on this political roadmap for Syria, for Syrian people, even after our war against ISIS.

In the Sahel, where terrorist networks span a footprint as large as Europe, French and American soldiers are confronting the same enemy and risking their lives together.

Here, I would like to pay special tribute to the American soldiers who fell this past fall in the region, and to their French comrades who lost their lives early this year in Mali. Better than anyone, I think, our troops know what the alliance and friendship between our countries means.

I believe, facing all these challenges, all these fears, all this anger, our duty, our destiny is to work together and to build this new, strong multilateralism.

Distinguished members of Congress,

Ladies and gentlemen,

On 25 April 1960, General de Gaulle affirmed in this Chamber that nothing was as important to France as “the reason, the resolution, the friendship of the great people of the United States”.

Fifty-eight years later, to this very day, I come here to convey the warmest feelings of the French nation, and to tell you that our people cherish the friendship of the American people, with as much intensity as ever.

The United States and the American people are an essential part of our confidence in the future, in democracy, in what women and men can accomplish in this world when we are driven by high ideals and an unbreakable trust in humanity and progress.

Today the call we hear is the call of history. This is a time of determination and courage. What we cherish is at stake. What we love is in danger. We have no choice but to prevail.

And together, we shall prevail.

Vive les Etats-Unis d’Amérique!

Long live the friendship between France and the United States of America!

Vive la République!

Vive la France!

Vive notre amitié.

Merci.

Thank you.

Education April 17, 2018: McGill professors sign an open letter supporting students over complaints of sexual misconduct

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EDUCATION

McGill professors sign an open letter supporting students over complaints of sexual misconduct

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

McGill University students are getting some support from their professors in their fight with the administration over sexual misconduct by professors in the Faculty of Arts. About 150 professors signed an open letter and sent it to administration officials on Monday, April 16, 2018, supporting the students’ grievances against the administration. The letter comes after the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) published an open letter demanding an external investigation, and staged a walkout protesting the administrations’ inaction over the misconduct of five professors in the Faculty of Arts. Tomorrow, Tuesday April 17, McGill students will be hosting a town hall meeting to discuss the issue.

The 148 professors made it clear that they support the SSMU’s call for an external investigation, their timeline to have it completed by June and the establishment of a single sexual violence policy covering both misconducts by students and faculty. The professors, who signed came from all the university’s faculties, not just Arts. They declared, “We stand in support of the students who have come forward with their experiences and with the student representatives and advocates who have supported these students.”

The professors wrote in the letter, “As teachers, we have a commitment to upholding a learning environment where students feel safe, supported and able to challenge themselves. It would be in violation of this duty for us not to add our voices to those of the students.” The professors also acknowledged that professor-student relationships should be prohibited. They wrote, “We believe that sexual relationships between students and faculty who are in a position to influence their academic and professional progress should be banned.”

The professors also reminded the administration that the issue affects the entire McGill community and the universities reputation. The professors pointed out to the administration, they have to “publicly acknowledge the fact that this issue affects the entire McGill community and the university’s reputation.”

The professors claim that the university has to keep in check professors that abuse their power because it also affects other faculty members. They indicated, “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, and often places an invisible burden on other faculty members.”

History professor Shannon Fitzpatrick spoke to CBC News about the faculty’s open letter. Fitzpatrick finds it troubling that the administration is ignoring students complaints. Fitzpatrick told CBC, the administration is “actively shutting down a line of communication. That to me goes against the university’s mission of critical inquiry into social problems.”

Last Wednesday, April 11, 2018, a week after publishing an open letter to the university administration, students staged a walkout over the administration ignoring repeated calls over professors’ inappropriate and sexually violating behavior in the Faculty of Arts. McGill students were joined by neighboring Concordia University students, who have been dealing with complaints against professors in their Creating Writing program, which go back nearly 20 years. Around 1,000 students walked out of their classes at 2 p.m. and protested in front of the James Administration Building at McGill’s downtown campus in community square. The joint protest was organized by both schools students societies; Concordia Student Union and Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU).

Two weeks ago, on Wednesday, April 4, 2018, the SSMU published an open letter addressed to the administration calling for an investigation into the way the university and Faculty of Arts have been dealing sexual violence and harassment complaints against professors. The letter has been signed by over 2000 students and over 85 clubs and other student societies. The letter accuses administration officials of ignoring complaints against professors in the Faculty of Arts.

McGill students want an investigation conducted by a third-party investigation into the method McGill deals with complaints. They want the third-party to review and interview students who made informal and formal complaints to the Dean of Arts against professors for the last five years and review if tenure committees are aware of any complaints. The SSMU wants the findings by this June. They are also demanding McGill to have an inclusive sexual violence policy that addresses professor-student relationships and misconduct complaints against professors. Now the SSMU has added a threat to motivate the administration; they act by Monday, April 23, or the SSMU will file a complaint at the Quebec Ministry of Education that McGill is in violation of Bill 151, the law requiring a single sexual assault policy for Quebec universities.

For the past few years, there have been rumblings about five professors that have misused their positions among both the students and faculty. The professors are in five different departments in the Faculty of Arts; history, philosophy, political science, psychology and the Institute of Islamic Studies. Among the offenses are “holding office hours in bars with underage students, to routinely sleeping with students who are in their classes, to being in abusive relationships with students they’re supervising.” Additionally, the professors would “make sexually suggestive comments in person and in e-mails.”

Apparently, the situation with these professors is an “open secret” everyone knows what is happening, but nothing is being done to stop these professors from running amok. The McGill Daily in their article, “We have always known about McGill’s predatory professors” wrote that the survey they conducted confirmed decades of sexual misconduct and that students have used a word-of-mouth system. The Daily sent out this survey April 9, receiving “dozens” of testimonies from the word-of-mouth system going back to 2008 according to the article. Unfortunately, professors have been blurring the lines for many years before at McGill, and there have been more than the five at the heart of students’ protests now.

Students have been writing anonymous accounts of the misconduct for years in the Daily. This past year, however, the protests are louder because one of the accused professors are up for tenure, which led to student letters to his department and a grassroots protest movement this past fall semester.

Despite the knowledge of the misconduct, students, however, are and have been discouraged from filing complaints by the Faculty of Arts. The complaints process at McGill has not and still does not deal with complaints against professors, especially those who engage in relationships with students, despite a revised sexual violence policy passed in 2016.

McGill students have been looking to Concordia for inspiration and to show McGill, an investigation is needed and a policy enforced to address professor-student relationships. Seeing the quick action at Concordia, made McGill’s students take an active and official stand against the administration’s lax treatment of professors who abuse their power.

Tomorrow students are going to continue their protest with a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. The meeting will allow students “to share stories, concerns, thoughts and questions” and to discuss what else the SSMU can do to convince the administration to act. The event is closed to the public and the media, and can only be attended by current McGill undergraduate and graduate students.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Education April 11, 2018: McGill students protest enough is enough to the administration in walk-out over professors’ sexual misconduct

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EDUCATION

McGill students protest enough is enough to the administration in walk-out over professors’ sexual misconduct

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

McGill University studentsare taking their protest to professors’ inappropriate behavior going unchecked to the next level. On Wednesday, April 11, 2018, a week afterpublishing an open letterto the university administration, students staged a walkout over the administration ignoring repeated calls over professors’ inappropriate and sexual violating behavior in the Faculty of Arts. McGill students were joined by neighboring Concordia University students, who have been dealing with complaints against professors in their Creating Writing program, which go back nearly 20 years. Around 1,000students walked outof their classes at 2 p.m. and protested in front of the James Administration Building at McGill’s downtown campus in community square. The joint protest was organized by both schools students societies; Concordia Student Union and Students’ Society…

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Education April 8, 2018: McGill University now has their #MeToo movement moment as students protest lothario professors 

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EDUCATION

McGill University now has their #MeToo movement moment as students protest lothario professors

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Montreal universities are now being drawn into the #MeToo movement forced to confront years of sexual harassment and assault that was pushed under the table. First, it was Concordia University, now McGill University is getting barraged for their handling of complaints. On Thursday, April 4, 2018, the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) published an open letter calling for an investigation into the way the university and Faculty of Arts have dealing sexual violence complaints against professors. The letter has been signed by nearly 1,500 students and over 50 clubs and other student societies. The letter accuses administration officials of ignoring complaints against professors in the Faculty of Arts and they are demanding a third-party investigation. The letter and calls are a long time in the making as students and professors have been writing and commenting about the actions of these professors in the Faculty of Arts, who engaged in so called consensual and unwanted inappropriate behavior against students for years.

The president of SSMU and its societies and five vice presidents addressed the letter to Principal Suzanne Fortier, Provost Christopher Manfredi, and Dean of Students Chris Buddle. The letter recounted the situation at the university, but did not name any professors, although students have been naming the professors in unofficial capacities for years. Neither does the letter describe the professors’ actions, although the chatter is quite loud on online forums, personal blogs and the student press, everyone on campus knows who these offenders are.

The letter claims, “These professors continue to teach and to supervise, in some cases teaching mandatory first year courses, leaving vulnerable the students who have not yet been warned about the predatory behaviours of certain professors. It has also been the case that student representatives over this past year have brought up these concerns multiple times to many different members of administration. It was clear that the majority of the administration who were met with knew which professors students are concerned about. And despite our expressing anxiety over the safety and well being of a particular student in one case – no action was taken.”

Connor Spencer, vice-president of external affairs for the Students’ Society of McGill University had a press conference on Thursday, April 5, clarifying the allegations. According to Spencer there are five professors that have misused their positions. The professors are in five different departments in the Faculty of Arts; history, philosophy, political science, psychology and the Institute of Islamic Studies. Among the offenses are “holding office hours in bars with underage students, to routinely sleeping with students who are in their classes, to being in abusive relationships with students they’re supervising.” Additionally, the professors would “make sexually suggestive comments in person and in e-mails.”

Apparently, the situation with these professors is an “open secret” everyone knows what is happening, but nothing is being done to stop these professors from running amok, while students are being discouraged from filing complaints. Spencer told CBC News, “Everyone’s aware of where the problems are, and no one’s doing anything to address it, year after year.” Spencer explained to the Globe and Mail, “Everyone knows the names of the professors and it’s shared among students.” The problem has been happening for at least five years with these specific professors. Spencer recounted that female students have been warning incoming students with a list of professors “whose classes I was not to take.” Female students were warned to never be alone with these professors. Spencer told the Globe and Mail, “If she did take their courses, she was told never to go to their offices ‘if I wanted to keep myself safe.’”

Despite everyone in the university, from the students to the administration know about the problems, the administration refuses to take any actions, because of the lack of formal complaints. Spencer recounted to the Globe and Mail, “We’ve spoken about specific cases with administrators in meetings and still nothing has been done, even though they know that these are reoccurring issues.” Spencer told the Montreal Gazette the SSMU wants the university to take the problem seriously, “We are hoping with this open letter to change the culture of understanding and show (the administration) they need to investigate when there are serious problems that compromise the safety and well being of students … whether or not there are official complaints.”

The SSMU’s letter is a means to force the administration to launch an investigation. The SSMU letter also asked for a remedy to the ongoing problem, their solution a third-party investigation into the method McGill deals with complaints. They want the third-party to review and interview students who made informal and formal complaints to the Dean of Arts against professors for the last five years and review if tenure committees are aware of any complaints. The SSMU wants the findings by this June.

The SSMU made the request in their letter, “We understand that the Faculty of Arts is not the only faculty that has a problem with professors who abuse their power, and we hope that an external investigation into Arts will set a precedent so that in the future McGill will act when they become aware of departmental issues and that above all they will begin to prioritize the safety of their students before the legal liability or reputation of the institution.”

When asked to respond by the press Vice-Principal Louis Arseneault (Communications and External Relations) declined to comment. Arseneault only gave a generic politically correct response in a statement, saying, “McGill University has put in place staff, resources, policies and opportunities for individuals and groups to come forward with their concerns and complaints. These are matters we take very seriously. Every report or complaint of sexual misconduct, abuse of authority through sexual misconduct or ‘predatory behaviour’ that contains sufficiently detailed facts is investigated. If there are findings of sexual misconduct of any kind, appropriate measures are taken, following due process.” Arseneault cited privacy laws in the investigation, stating, “Because of Quebec law concerning privacy, the University cannot disclose when it is conducting investigations, nor reveal any results. Thus, the fact that results are not disclosed is not evidence that investigations did not occur or that they were faulty.”

Provost and Vice-Principal Manfredi also sent a personal responseto Spencer, insisting, “Every report and complaint of misconduct that contains sufficient details is investigated.” Manfredi told Spencer, “As you know from your own work on the Sexual Violence Policy Implementation Committee and from McGill administrators’ ongoing, direct engagement with SSMU executives – yourself included – McGill has in place extensive resources, skilled staff, and robust policies to address matters of sexual violence and to support survivors.”

Despite the university being on defensive as to investigating sexual misconduct complaints, the process deters students from filing a complaint or if they start they usually stop. As Spencer pointed out, “it’s so labour-intensive and retraumatizing.” As with women who file complaints against men in positions of power many are worried they would not be believed. The university has also in past situations attempted to discredit claims that are filed as a deterrent for students filing complaints. The complaints process is also steeped in confidentiality, it is meant to help the students, but does more to protect a an accused faculty member.

Student Geneviève Mercier-Dalphond writing in a March 2016, McGill Daily article entitled, “The vicious circle of professor-student relationships A follow-up investigation of McGill’s policies on sexual harassment” discussed the problems confidentiality in the process causes. Mercier-Dalphond explained, “On a broader level, it sends a message that normalizes student-professor relations, and sets an example for other professors that they can get away with this kind of inappropriate behaviour.”

In December 2016, McGill revised their sexual violence policy, Policy against Sexual Violence, to comply with Quebec’s new Bill 151, requiring schools to have a consolidated sexual violence policy (SVP) including addressing professor-student relationships by 2019. The new SVP deals with violence by the whole McGill community, especially students and operates under the Student Code of Conduct. The policy can “reprimand, expel or suspend a student.” The new policy was three years in the making, and was supposed to have a “survivor-centred approach.” Additionally, the policy “establishes measures that McGill will adopt with respect to prevention, education, support, and response to sexual violence.” The university also created a new sexual assault centre, “dedicated to sexual violence education and response.”

At the time the new policy was passed by the university senate; the students still had misgivings about how complaints would be handled under the new rules. Erin Sobat, the vice-president of university affairs for the SSMU during the 2016-17 academic year commented at the time to CBC News, “What it doesn’t do is address the disciplinary process past the process of filing a report.” Labour laws in Quebec, prohibit the publication of the procedures. The only way to file a complaint against a professor is by filing a complaint for” harassment, violence of coercion.”

The new policy also failed to address professor-student relationships, and complaints against professors; a central problem at the heart of the complaints against one of the professors the open letter is directed. The new SVP says very little about these relationships, writing, “an abuse of a relationship of trust, power or authority, such as the relationship between a professor and their student,” and agreeing they cannot be consensual. The only way to file a complaint against a professor is by filing a complaint for” harassment, violence of coercion.” The complaints are then processed through the Regulations Relating to Employment of Tenure Track and Tenured Academic Staff. Labour laws in Quebec, prohibit the publication of the procedures. The process is so complicated that it dissuades students from filing. Connor explained to the Montreal Gazette, “You have to consult at least six documents full of policy jargon after you’ve just experienced a trauma, and you are not really sure about wanting to do this, anyway. That would discourage anyone from coming forward.”

In December 2017, the McGill Tribune editorial board wrote an opinion piece opposing the lack of policy for such complaints entitled, “McGill’s sexual violence policy lacking on professor-student relationships.” They emphasized what an important gap this is in policy since these relationships cannot be consensual. The board pointed to the conflict of interest with such relationships, and indicated why. The board expressed, “Of more dire ethical concern is the question of consent in these relationships. The power differential between students and professors is enormous—whether acting as an intro-course lecturer or a master’s research supervisor, a professor has substantial control over their students’ success at McGill, and, by extension, their career prospects upon graduation. Given this compromised capacity to object to unwanted sexual advances, it is unethical for a professor to initiate any relationship with a student directly beneath them.”

The #MeToo movement is altering the definition of consent, especially there is a difference power between the two parties in evolved, such as professors getting involved in relationships, and sexually with their students. Students who believe they are getting involved consensually with professors seem to forget, with such a power difference, these relationships can never truly be consensual, because there is no equality. Mercier-Dolphand in the McGill Daily explained, “The student’s power in this dynamic is not comparable, and talking of equality between consenting adults in this case ignores the power differential on which the relationship is built.”

Recently, even former White House intern Monica Lewinsky in a March 2018, Vanity Fair article entitled, “Emerging from the ‘House of Gaslight’ in the age of #metoo” re-examined her relationship with former President Bill Clinton. Lewinsky persistently claimed it was consensual and she was not a victim, but she is currently reconsidering it in light of the #MeToo movement. Lewinsky expressed, “I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege. (Full stop.)”

A former Associate Dean of Arts at York University, Shirley Katz wrote a policy paper on the very issue published in University Affairs in 2000, entitled “Sexual Relations Between Students and Faculty.” To Katz there cannot be consent because of professors’ “power over students” as the nature of role. Katz concludes the power difference is always there making consent in the traditional way impossible for students. Katz wrote, “because the professor’s powers affect the student’s life in a significant way, […] the student cannot say no to the relationship, so her consent is actually coerced compliance.”

Jason M. Opal, associate professor in the Department of History and Classical Studies at McGill commented in the 2015 McGill Daily article, “Let’s talk about teacher,” a student’s anonymous recount of her sexual relationship with one of the professors accused of inappropriate behavior. Opal concurred, the power dynamic affects consent. Opal wrote there are “profound inadequacies of ‘consent’ as a moral and social category.” Continuing, he said, “consent is better than coercion: that is the best thing we can say about it. Opal concluded that the professor student relationship is “inherently problematic, usually exploitative, and often predatory.” The unequal predatory nature is the reason professors involved have to face sanctions and punishments from the university, because they have an obligation to protect their students.

Some of the accounts coming from McGill describe sexual relationships, but they are not the only inappropriate ones. Others blur the line, friendships and emotional relationships that can tether on sexual harassment or impropriety, but avoid the messy sexual dynamic that is easier to prove crossed a line. Even if broken boundaries are easily proved, the university has not been kind to students filing complaints against professors after such relationships. They are not given the same weight as unwanted and forced sexual harassment and assault committed by other students. Universities have been enacting policies that prohibit any personal relationships between students and professors, especially if they are in as position to grade them for some timer already. McGill has yet to address the issue even after revising their sexual assault policy..

Students had a right to be concerned about the revised SVP seeing what is transpiring with the five Arts professors and the way complaints have been brushed aside. The SSMU has been working on an additional policycovering misconduct from students in McGill’s clubs and societies. Closing the “loophole” would make students more comfortable making complaints against fellow students. It would allow the SSMU clubs and societies to remove or sanction someone that has a complaint filed against them, even banning them from the SSMU building. Additionally, it would provide mandatory training in defining and preventing sexual assault for all SSMU associated university clubs and societies.

For over two years there has been rumblings of complaints of transgressions by professors in the Faculty of Arts, particularly, the Department of Political Science, incidentally Provost Manfredi’s old department and the Institute of Islamic Studies. Apparently, there are claims that there is a serial sexual harasser in the department of political science and a serial lothario in the Institute of Islamic Studies. This professor in the Islamic Studies is a central reason for the students and SSMU’s uproar over the university’s mishandlings of professors’ inappropriate behavior.

Former McGill political science professor Stephen Saideman, who taught at the department from 2002 to 2012 wrote about the actions of a professor in his department. Saideman repeatedly wrote about this particular professor in a number of blog posts. In his blog post entitled, “McGill’s Shame Continues” from March 2016, he specifically revealed that this professor was teaching Middle East and peace building studies in the department. Saideman explained in his post why he did not expose the name of the professor. The former McGill professor commented, “I have repeatedly referred to a particular serial sexual harasser […] but obliquely so. Why obliquely so? Because I am not sure what the consequences are for me of violating the confidentiality agreements of a place I used to work and because I didn’t want people to speculate about who received this guy’s unwanted attention.”

A student did successfully file a complaint this particular professor; however, the so-called punishment was hardly enough to deter him from continuing harassing students. Saideman recounted, “[the University] did find in favour of the student, and the provost found that something inappropriate happened at the time, but that it did not fit the definition at the time of sexual harassment. I do believe this is a failure on the part of that provost.” All the university did was change the professor’s office to one where he can be monitored and prevented him from taking on graduate students. In barely no time, the department lapsed, he was back in his old office, and supervising graduate students, even female ones.

In 2016, Saidemen claimed the major problem with the complaints process was confidentiality and the university refusing to name guilty professors. During his time at McGill Saideman used to discourage students from studying that area, as the only means of deterrence he could do. Saideman told the McGill Daily, “The core problem is how McGill has handled it. It was all treated confidentially, which has the effect of protecting the perpetrator…. the job of the University is to protect students.” Saideman was surprised that he was still teaching, saying, “I simply don’t understand why McGill has not fired him yet.”

Another story that brought out the problem of the professor accused of sleeping with his students was an anonymous article in the McGill Daily of a student recounting her nearly two-year affair with this professor, the one supposedly from the Institute of Islamic Studies The article published in September 2015 was entitled, “Let’s talk about teacher I slept with my professor and here’s why it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.” The explicit article described how this professor-student relationship developed from office-hour meetings to a working and sexual relationship that tore this student apart with the conflicting roles they played. In her recount, the working relationship played a prominent role in their developing relationship. The work relationship was the legitimate way for them to spend time in his office behind closed doors; a common excuse professors use to justify publicly their inappropriate involvement with a student. After the second year, the student discovered he had been sleeping with other students as well she was not the only one, but one of many.

The student described this professor as she saw him after everything ended, “He was a predator. He was a manipulator. He was a liar. He was using young women as vessels for self-validation. He was abusing his power, and he had no intention of stopping.” She also discovered this professor, “slept with, propositioned, sent inappropriate emails to, or generally made uncomfortable” other female students. The complaints process was daunting and these students feared retribution and reprisals that are so common so they did file. The article published nearly three-years-ago indicated that at that time there where problems also with five professors in different departments, “who had reputations of either serially harassing or sleeping with their students.” The student recounted, “Where some professors were concerned, students spoke of the incidents like they were common knowledge.”

At that point, there were no formal complaints filed against that professor. This fall the students were fed up with this Islamic Studies’ professor at the heart of this scandal as he was up for tenure this academic year, so they initiated their own grassroots protest. At the start of this academic year, stickers were posted in the women’s bathrooms with the Islamic Studies professor’s name, warning other female students. According to the McGill Daily, “Noting that the professor is up for tenure this semester, the stickers urged students to send testimonies of abusive behaviour from faculty and staff to zerotolerance@riseup.net.” The professor in question responded with a denial, saying, “Anonymous accusations have been posted around campus about me that are categorically untrue and constitute defamation. I am deeply committed to doing my part to make every student feel safe in my classroom and on McGill’s campus.”

The university administration seemed to have backed up the professor with Angela Campbell, the Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures and Equity) writing a defending statement that admonished the students who revealed the professor publicly. Campbell stated, “The University takes all complaints of misconduct seriously.” Continuing Campbell expressed, “Survivors can and should report through the appropriate channels,” and “McGill’s administration disapproves of attempts to address such matters through anonymous posters such as [the stickers] found on campus and is taking measures to remove these.”

Additionally, in the Winter 2017 semester the 2016-2017 executive leaders of the World Islamic and Middle East Studies Student Association (WIMESSA) Sent an open letter objecting to the professor to Robert Wisnovsky, Director of the Institute of Islamic Studies. The letter read, “We (WIMESSA execs) believe that the department is partially not taking this seriously, because they don’t think many undergrads personally care,” read the preamble to the open letter. “There is also no ‘paper trail’ of student concern which makes the department less accountable to the university.” WIMESSA asked the department not to grant the professor tenure, writing, “It is disconcerting that such an abuse of power appears to be going unreprimanded. As it stands, women are at a disadvantage within the Islamic Studies department, and this inequality needs to be corrected. For these reasons, WIMESSA vehemently encourages the impending tenure committee to deny [the professor] tenure.”

The program director never publicly responded, and this year’s WIMESSA executives issued a statement. The statement backtracked and avoided mentioning the particular professor. The executives wrote, “In light of recent events regarding the Islamic Studies Institute, we want to extend our services to the community and support our students in any way we can. […] Sexual violence is a serious issue that we do not tolerate and we recognize the institutional violence that this inherently causes. […] This is a matter that we are taking very seriously and we are working as much as we can within our power to ensure transparency and accountability.”

It is too easy for the lines to be blurred in academia. For professors they are presented with wide-eyed naive students in awe, many enamored with the professors’ charm, sophistication and brilliance, and they easily take advantage of the situation. Many of the young faculty members are often less than then ten years older than the students they teach, for others they never want to see themselves as older than the students. They behave as friends, buddies cross the line into sexual harassment, sexual relationships, but the power dynamic is always there. Professors and students are never equals and it is inappropriate for them to think it is even possible.

Research has proven that power alters the minds of men, making them believe they have the right to behave in the controlling manner that leads to sexual harassment and assault. They believe they have a privilege to behave the way they do and many fail to see how wrong they are. The #MeToo movement in a short six months has swept through the entertainment industry, politics, business and journalism. The movement gave a voice and credibility to women who for years had experienced harassment, abuse and assault in the hands of men in positions of power and then suffered in silence fearing reprisals.

Now it is sweeping academia, but there are set backs. Tenure has always given professors an extra boost in their power, giving them an air of invincibility. Tenure has and is still protecting professors preventing universities from firing professors who behave inappropriately with students. Professors, however, believe universities owe their students to deal with the accused professors, not just fire them, which would allow them to continue their behavior elsewhere. The SSMU’s open letter wants an investigator to examine tenure and tenure-track professors as well, to see if complaints against professors are presented to the tenure committee and to see whether tenure status “can be reassessed following formal complaints against a faculty member.”

The students realize tenure cannot be overturned and the system changed overnight, but they do believe there should be consequences for tenured professors. Spencer commented to the Montreal Gazette, “Right now, if a prof has tenure, they are untouchable. Some of the profs (who are the subjects of repeated complaints) have tenure and some don’t. For the ones who do have tenure, why would anyone bring a complaint forward? … It’s not about, one complaint, therefore fire them, but we need to explore what a procedure for processing complaints against a tenured prof looks like.”

In Montreal, there have already been cracks in that invincibility. This past January at neighboring Concordia University, former students and graduates of the school’s creative writing program came forward against four professors without tenure with allegations going back two decades. The university acted swiftly and dismissed three of the living professors, then launched an investigation. Within two weeks the university issued guidelines on how to deal with professor-student relationships acknowledging there is a “conflict of interest” and an “imbalance of power.”

The events at Concordia inspired SSMU to take action now, and force the university to confront the way they have been dealing or not dealing with complaints against these five repeat offending professors. Spencer commented the press, “We were told that it couldn’t happen, and then we looked over at our neighbour and they were doing it, so we didn’t accept that anymore…I thought, ’If not now, then when,’ If something doesn’t happen now, I don’t know when it’s going to happen.”

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Education April 8, 2018: McGill University now has their #MeToo movement moment as students protest lothario professors 

HEADLINE NEWS

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EDUCATION

McGill University now has their #MeToo movement moment as students protest lothario professors

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Montreal universities are now being drawn into the #MeToo movement forced to confront years of sexual harassment and assault that was pushed under the table. First, it was Concordia University, now McGill University is getting barraged for their handling of complaints. On Thursday, April 4, 2018, the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) published an open letter calling for an investigation into the way the university and Faculty of Arts have dealing sexual violence complaints against professors. The letter has been signed by nearly 1,500 students and over 50 clubs and other student societies. The letter accuses administration officials of ignoring complaints against professors in the Faculty of Arts and they are demanding a third-party investigation. The letter and calls are a long time in the making as students and professors have been writing and commenting about the actions of these professors in the Faculty of Arts, who engaged in so called consensual and unwanted inappropriate behavior against students for years.

The president of SSMU and its societies and five vice presidents addressed the letter to Principal Suzanne Fortier, Provost Christopher Manfredi, and Dean of Students Chris Buddle. The letter recounted the situation at the university, but did not name any professors, although students have been naming the professors in unofficial capacities for years. Neither does the letter describe the professors’ actions, although the chatter is quite loud on online forums, personal blogs and the student press, everyone on campus knows who these offenders are.

The letter claims, “These professors continue to teach and to supervise, in some cases teaching mandatory first year courses, leaving vulnerable the students who have not yet been warned about the predatory behaviours of certain professors. It has also been the case that student representatives over this past year have brought up these concerns multiple times to many different members of administration. It was clear that the majority of the administration who were met with knew which professors students are concerned about. And despite our expressing anxiety over the safety and well being of a particular student in one case – no action was taken.”

Connor Spencer, vice-president of external affairs for the Students’ Society of McGill University had a press conference on Thursday, April 5, clarifying the allegations. According to Spencer there are five professors that have misused their positions. The professors are in five different departments in the Faculty of Arts; history, philosophy, political science, psychology and the Institute of Islamic Studies. Among the offenses are “holding office hours in bars with underage students, to routinely sleeping with students who are in their classes, to being in abusive relationships with students they’re supervising.” Additionally, the professors would “make sexually suggestive comments in person and in e-mails.”

Apparently, the situation with these professors is an “open secret” everyone knows what is happening, but nothing is being done to stop these professors from running amok, while students are being discouraged from filing complaints. Spencer told CBC News, “Everyone’s aware of where the problems are, and no one’s doing anything to address it, year after year.” Spencer explained to the Globe and Mail, “Everyone knows the names of the professors and it’s shared among students.” The problem has been happening for at least five years with these specific professors. Spencer recounted that female students have been warning incoming students with a list of professors “whose classes I was not to take.” Female students were warned to never be alone with these professors. Spencer told the Globe and Mail, “If she did take their courses, she was told never to go to their offices ‘if I wanted to keep myself safe.’”

Despite everyone in the university, from the students to the administration know about the problems, the administration refuses to take any actions, because of the lack of formal complaints. Spencer recounted to the Globe and Mail, “We’ve spoken about specific cases with administrators in meetings and still nothing has been done, even though they know that these are reoccurring issues.” Spencer told the Montreal Gazette the SSMU wants the university to take the problem seriously, “We are hoping with this open letter to change the culture of understanding and show (the administration) they need to investigate when there are serious problems that compromise the safety and well being of students … whether or not there are official complaints.”

The SSMU’s letter is a means to force the administration to launch an investigation. The SSMU letter also asked for a remedy to the ongoing problem, their solution a third-party investigation into the method McGill deals with complaints. They want the third-party to review and interview students who made informal and formal complaints to the Dean of Arts against professors for the last five years and review if tenure committees are aware of any complaints. The SSMU wants the findings by this June.

The SSMU made the request in their letter, “We understand that the Faculty of Arts is not the only faculty that has a problem with professors who abuse their power, and we hope that an external investigation into Arts will set a precedent so that in the future McGill will act when they become aware of departmental issues and that above all they will begin to prioritize the safety of their students before the legal liability or reputation of the institution.”

When asked to respond by the press Vice-Principal Louis Arseneault (Communications and External Relations) declined to comment. Arseneault only gave a generic politically correct response in a statement, saying, “McGill University has put in place staff, resources, policies and opportunities for individuals and groups to come forward with their concerns and complaints. These are matters we take very seriously. Every report or complaint of sexual misconduct, abuse of authority through sexual misconduct or ‘predatory behaviour’ that contains sufficiently detailed facts is investigated. If there are findings of sexual misconduct of any kind, appropriate measures are taken, following due process.” Arseneault cited privacy laws in the investigation, stating, “Because of Quebec law concerning privacy, the University cannot disclose when it is conducting investigations, nor reveal any results. Thus, the fact that results are not disclosed is not evidence that investigations did not occur or that they were faulty.”

Provost and Vice-Principal Manfredi also sent a personal responseto Spencer, insisting, “Every report and complaint of misconduct that contains sufficient details is investigated.” Manfredi told Spencer, “As you know from your own work on the Sexual Violence Policy Implementation Committee and from McGill administrators’ ongoing, direct engagement with SSMU executives – yourself included – McGill has in place extensive resources, skilled staff, and robust policies to address matters of sexual violence and to support survivors.”

Despite the university being on defensive as to investigating sexual misconduct complaints, the process deters students from filing a complaint or if they start they usually stop. As Spencer pointed out, “it’s so labour-intensive and retraumatizing.” As with women who file complaints against men in positions of power many are worried they would not be believed. The university has also in past situations attempted to discredit claims that are filed as a deterrent for students filing complaints. The complaints process is also steeped in confidentiality, it is meant to help the students, but does more to protect a an accused faculty member.

Student Geneviève Mercier-Dalphond writing in a March 2016, McGill Daily article entitled, “The vicious circle of professor-student relationships A follow-up investigation of McGill’s policies on sexual harassment” discussed the problems confidentiality in the process causes. Mercier-Dalphond explained, “On a broader level, it sends a message that normalizes student-professor relations, and sets an example for other professors that they can get away with this kind of inappropriate behaviour.”

In December 2016, McGill revised their sexual violence policy, Policy against Sexual Violence, to comply with Quebec’s new Bill 151, requiring schools to have a consolidated sexual violence policy (SVP) including addressing professor-student relationships by 2019. The new SVP deals with violence by the whole McGill community, especially students and operates under the Student Code of Conduct. The policy can “reprimand, expel or suspend a student.” The new policy was three years in the making, and was supposed to have a “survivor-centred approach.” Additionally, the policy “establishes measures that McGill will adopt with respect to prevention, education, support, and response to sexual violence.” The university also created a new sexual assault centre, “dedicated to sexual violence education and response.”

At the time the new policy was passed by the university senate; the students still had misgivings about how complaints would be handled under the new rules. Erin Sobat, the vice-president of university affairs for the SSMU during the 2016-17 academic year commented at the time to CBC News, “What it doesn’t do is address the disciplinary process past the process of filing a report.” Labour laws in Quebec, prohibit the publication of the procedures. The only way to file a complaint against a professor is by filing a complaint for” harassment, violence of coercion.”

The new policy also failed to address professor-student relationships, and complaints against professors; a central problem at the heart of the complaints against one of the professors the open letter is directed. The new SVP says very little about these relationships, writing, “an abuse of a relationship of trust, power or authority, such as the relationship between a professor and their student,” and agreeing they cannot be consensual. The only way to file a complaint against a professor is by filing a complaint for” harassment, violence of coercion.” The complaints are then processed through the Regulations Relating to Employment of Tenure Track and Tenured Academic Staff. Labour laws in Quebec, prohibit the publication of the procedures. The process is so complicated that it dissuades students from filing. Connor explained to the Montreal Gazette, “You have to consult at least six documents full of policy jargon after you’ve just experienced a trauma, and you are not really sure about wanting to do this, anyway. That would discourage anyone from coming forward.”

In December 2017, the McGill Tribune editorial board wrote an opinion piece opposing the lack of policy for such complaints entitled, “McGill’s sexual violence policy lacking on professor-student relationships.” They emphasized what an important gap this is in policy since these relationships cannot be consensual. The board pointed to the conflict of interest with such relationships, and indicated why. The board expressed, “Of more dire ethical concern is the question of consent in these relationships. The power differential between students and professors is enormous—whether acting as an intro-course lecturer or a master’s research supervisor, a professor has substantial control over their students’ success at McGill, and, by extension, their career prospects upon graduation. Given this compromised capacity to object to unwanted sexual advances, it is unethical for a professor to initiate any relationship with a student directly beneath them.”

The #MeToo movement is altering the definition of consent, especially there is a difference power between the two parties in evolved, such as professors getting involved in relationships, and sexually with their students. Students who believe they are getting involved consensually with professors seem to forget, with such a power difference, these relationships can never truly be consensual, because there is no equality. Mercier-Dolphand in the McGill Daily explained, “The student’s power in this dynamic is not comparable, and talking of equality between consenting adults in this case ignores the power differential on which the relationship is built.”

Recently, even former White House intern Monica Lewinsky in a March 2018, Vanity Fair article entitled, “Emerging from the ‘House of Gaslight’ in the age of #metoo” re-examined her relationship with former President Bill Clinton. Lewinsky persistently claimed it was consensual and she was not a victim, but she is currently reconsidering it in light of the #MeToo movement. Lewinsky expressed, “I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege. (Full stop.)”

A former Associate Dean of Arts at York University, Shirley Katz wrote a policy paper on the very issue published in University Affairs in 2000, entitled “Sexual Relations Between Students and Faculty.” To Katz there cannot be consent because of professors’ “power over students” as the nature of role. Katz concludes the power difference is always there making consent in the traditional way impossible for students. Katz wrote, “because the professor’s powers affect the student’s life in a significant way, […] the student cannot say no to the relationship, so her consent is actually coerced compliance.”

Jason M. Opal, associate professor in the Department of History and Classical Studies at McGill commented in the 2015 McGill Daily article, “Let’s talk about teacher,” a student’s anonymous recount of her sexual relationship with one of the professors accused of inappropriate behavior. Opal concurred, the power dynamic affects consent. Opal wrote there are “profound inadequacies of ‘consent’ as a moral and social category.” Continuing, he said, “consent is better than coercion: that is the best thing we can say about it. Opal concluded that the professor student relationship is “inherently problematic, usually exploitative, and often predatory.” The unequal predatory nature is the reason professors involved have to face sanctions and punishments from the university, because they have an obligation to protect their students.

Some of the accounts coming from McGill describe sexual relationships, but they are not the only inappropriate ones. Others blur the line, friendships and emotional relationships that can tether on sexual harassment or impropriety, but avoid the messy sexual dynamic that is easier to prove crossed a line. Even if broken boundaries are easily proved, the university has not been kind to students filing complaints against professors after such relationships. They are not given the same weight as unwanted and forced sexual harassment and assault committed by other students. Universities have been enacting policies that prohibit any personal relationships between students and professors, especially if they are in as position to grade them for some timer already. McGill has yet to address the issue even after revising their sexual assault policy..

Students had a right to be concerned about the revised SVP seeing what is transpiring with the five Arts professors and the way complaints have been brushed aside. The SSMU has been working on an additional policycovering misconduct from students in McGill’s clubs and societies. Closing the “loophole” would make students more comfortable making complaints against fellow students. It would allow the SSMU clubs and societies to remove or sanction someone that has a complaint filed against them, even banning them from the SSMU building. Additionally, it would provide mandatory training in defining and preventing sexual assault for all SSMU associated university clubs and societies.

For over two years there has been rumblings of complaints of transgressions by professors in the Faculty of Arts, particularly, the Department of Political Science, incidentally Provost Manfredi’s old department and the Institute of Islamic Studies. Apparently, there are claims that there is a serial sexual harasser in the department of political science and a serial lothario in the Institute of Islamic Studies. This professor in the Islamic Studies is a central reason for the students and SSMU’s uproar over the university’s mishandlings of professors’ inappropriate behavior.

Former McGill political science professor Stephen Saideman, who taught at the department from 2002 to 2012 wrote about the actions of a professor in his department. Saideman repeatedly wrote about this particular professor in a number of blog posts. In his blog post entitled, “McGill’s Shame Continues” from March 2016, he specifically revealed that this professor was teaching Middle East and peace building studies in the department. Saideman explained in his post why he did not expose the name of the professor. The former McGill professor commented, “I have repeatedly referred to a particular serial sexual harasser […] but obliquely so. Why obliquely so? Because I am not sure what the consequences are for me of violating the confidentiality agreements of a place I used to work and because I didn’t want people to speculate about who received this guy’s unwanted attention.”

A student did successfully file a complaint this particular professor; however, the so-called punishment was hardly enough to deter him from continuing harassing students. Saideman recounted, “[the University] did find in favour of the student, and the provost found that something inappropriate happened at the time, but that it did not fit the definition at the time of sexual harassment. I do believe this is a failure on the part of that provost.” All the university did was change the professor’s office to one where he can be monitored and prevented him from taking on graduate students. In barely no time, the department lapsed, he was back in his old office, and supervising graduate students, even female ones.

In 2016, Saidemen claimed the major problem with the complaints process was confidentiality and the university refusing to name guilty professors. During his time at McGill Saideman used to discourage students from studying that area, as the only means of deterrence he could do. Saideman told the McGill Daily, “The core problem is how McGill has handled it. It was all treated confidentially, which has the effect of protecting the perpetrator…. the job of the University is to protect students.” Saideman was surprised that he was still teaching, saying, “I simply don’t understand why McGill has not fired him yet.”

Another story that brought out the problem of the professor accused of sleeping with his students was an anonymous article in the McGill Daily of a student recounting her nearly two-year affair with this professor, the one supposedly from the Institute of Islamic Studies The article published in September 2015 was entitled, “Let’s talk about teacher I slept with my professor and here’s why it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.” The explicit article described how this professor-student relationship developed from office-hour meetings to a working and sexual relationship that tore this student apart with the conflicting roles they played. In her recount, the working relationship played a prominent role in their developing relationship. The work relationship was the legitimate way for them to spend time in his office behind closed doors; a common excuse professors use to justify publicly their inappropriate involvement with a student. After the second year, the student discovered he had been sleeping with other students as well she was not the only one, but one of many.

The student described this professor as she saw him after everything ended, “He was a predator. He was a manipulator. He was a liar. He was using young women as vessels for self-validation. He was abusing his power, and he had no intention of stopping.” She also discovered this professor, “slept with, propositioned, sent inappropriate emails to, or generally made uncomfortable” other female students. The complaints process was daunting and these students feared retribution and reprisals that are so common so they did file. The article published nearly three-years-ago indicated that at that time there where problems also with five professors in different departments, “who had reputations of either serially harassing or sleeping with their students.” The student recounted, “Where some professors were concerned, students spoke of the incidents like they were common knowledge.”

At that point, there were no formal complaints filed against that professor. This fall the students were fed up with this Islamic Studies’ professor at the heart of this scandal as he was up for tenure this academic year, so they initiated their own grassroots protest. At the start of this academic year, stickers were posted in the women’s bathrooms with the Islamic Studies professor’s name, warning other female students. According to the McGill Daily, “Noting that the professor is up for tenure this semester, the stickers urged students to send testimonies of abusive behaviour from faculty and staff to zerotolerance@riseup.net.” The professor in question responded with a denial, saying, “Anonymous accusations have been posted around campus about me that are categorically untrue and constitute defamation. I am deeply committed to doing my part to make every student feel safe in my classroom and on McGill’s campus.”

The university administration seemed to have backed up the professor with Angela Campbell, the Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures and Equity) writing a defending statement that admonished the students who revealed the professor publicly. Campbell stated, “The University takes all complaints of misconduct seriously.” Continuing Campbell expressed, “Survivors can and should report through the appropriate channels,” and “McGill’s administration disapproves of attempts to address such matters through anonymous posters such as [the stickers] found on campus and is taking measures to remove these.”

Additionally, in the Winter 2017 semester the 2016-2017 executive leaders of the World Islamic and Middle East Studies Student Association (WIMESSA) Sent an open letter objecting to the professor to Robert Wisnovsky, Director of the Institute of Islamic Studies. The letter read, “We (WIMESSA execs) believe that the department is partially not taking this seriously, because they don’t think many undergrads personally care,” read the preamble to the open letter. “There is also no ‘paper trail’ of student concern which makes the department less accountable to the university.” WIMESSA asked the department not to grant the professor tenure, writing, “It is disconcerting that such an abuse of power appears to be going unreprimanded. As it stands, women are at a disadvantage within the Islamic Studies department, and this inequality needs to be corrected. For these reasons, WIMESSA vehemently encourages the impending tenure committee to deny [the professor] tenure.”

The program director never publicly responded, and this year’s WIMESSA executives issued a statement. The statement backtracked and avoided mentioning the particular professor. The executives wrote, “In light of recent events regarding the Islamic Studies Institute, we want to extend our services to the community and support our students in any way we can. […] Sexual violence is a serious issue that we do not tolerate and we recognize the institutional violence that this inherently causes. […] This is a matter that we are taking very seriously and we are working as much as we can within our power to ensure transparency and accountability.”

It is too easy for the lines to be blurred in academia. For professors they are presented with wide-eyed naive students in awe, many enamored with the professors’ charm, sophistication and brilliance, and they easily take advantage of the situation. Many of the young faculty members are often less than then ten years older than the students they teach, for others they never want to see themselves as older than the students. They behave as friends, buddies cross the line into sexual harassment, sexual relationships, but the power dynamic is always there. Professors and students are never equals and it is inappropriate for them to think it is even possible.

Research has proven that power alters the minds of men, making them believe they have the right to behave in the controlling manner that leads to sexual harassment and assault. They believe they have a privilege to behave the way they do and many fail to see how wrong they are. The #MeToo movement in a short six months has swept through the entertainment industry, politics, business and journalism. The movement gave a voice and credibility to women who for years had experienced harassment, abuse and assault in the hands of men in positions of power and then suffered in silence fearing reprisals.

Now it is sweeping academia, but there are set backs. Tenure has always given professors an extra boost in their power, giving them an air of invincibility. Tenure has and is still protecting professors preventing universities from firing professors who behave inappropriately with students. Professors, however, believe universities owe their students to deal with the accused professors, not just fire them, which would allow them to continue their behavior elsewhere. The SSMU’s open letter wants an investigator to examine tenure and tenure-track professors as well, to see if complaints against professors are presented to the tenure committee and to see whether tenure status “can be reassessed following formal complaints against a faculty member.”

The students realize tenure cannot be overturned and the system changed overnight, but they do believe there should be consequences for tenured professors. Spencer commented to the Montreal Gazette, “Right now, if a prof has tenure, they are untouchable. Some of the profs (who are the subjects of repeated complaints) have tenure and some don’t. For the ones who do have tenure, why would anyone bring a complaint forward? … It’s not about, one complaint, therefore fire them, but we need to explore what a procedure for processing complaints against a tenured prof looks like.”

In Montreal, there have already been cracks in that invincibility. This past January at neighboring Concordia University, former students and graduates of the school’s creative writing program came forward against four professors without tenure with allegations going back two decades. The university acted swiftly and dismissed three of the living professors, then launched an investigation. Within two weeks the university issued guidelines on how to deal with professor-student relationships acknowledging there is a “conflict of interest” and an “imbalance of power.”

The events at Concordia inspired SSMU to take action now, and force the university to confront the way they have been dealing or not dealing with complaints against these five repeat offending professors. Spencer commented the press, “We were told that it couldn’t happen, and then we looked over at our neighbour and they were doing it, so we didn’t accept that anymore…I thought, ’If not now, then when,’ If something doesn’t happen now, I don’t know when it’s going to happen.”

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

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