Despite the start of another academic year still being months away, The Centre for Gender Advocacy is already looking towards the fall, continuing to mount a campaign to get mandatory consent workshops in Concordia University residences. The campaign includes an online petition with over 200 signatures calling for support of the workshops.
The campaign seeks to bring education about issues of consent to students residing in Concordia University residences, a number which will be growing this year with the expansion of the University’s residence system.
Julie Michaud, Administrative Coordinator at The Centre explained to Forget the Box that a similar system has already been implemented at McGill for the past ten years through Rez Project – something that she views as all the more reason to follow suit at Concordia.
However, the University’s Director of Residences has asked the Centre to take down the online petition, and telling the Centre that it would be unfeasible to hold such mandatory workshops.
Michaud pointed to the fact that the Centre had met in the past with the Director of Residence Life, as well as managers of residences to discuss the issue of mandatory consent workshops, and the response was relatively closed.
“They offered for us to come in and give one workshop – well one workshop will let maybe 20 students out of several hundred get this information, which isn’t practical. They gave us reasons we thought that weren’t very convincing about why it would be impossible to have mandatory consent workshops.”
“We did receive a call a few weeks after we put up the petition and the Director of Residence Life asked us to take it down, saying he thought it wasn’t a very good way to start the conversation, but as I said we had conversations with them and reiterated that he had given us his reasons
Michaud continued that she believes the lack of support stems from a “lack of vision and a lack of understanding for what a substantial issue this is for them to just shut down the conversation. At McGill there are far more residence, at Concordia there are less than a thousand, even with the planned expansion for next fall. ThI just don’t buy that idea that it isn’t possible or too much of a logistical challenge to make this happen.
“I think we can work through ways to really prioritize this, all of these new students coming into University and residence life usually having no decent sex or consent education in high school.”
“We need to take concrete steps to ensure that people are being respectful of one another, because residence isn’t just an apartment building, the Director of Residence Life isn’t just a landlord, residence is really a community.”
While the Centre has run optional consent workshops before, Michaud highlighted that making the workshops mandatory means that those who may not believe they need to care about issues of consent, are also receiving lessons on sexual assault and consent.
“Most survivors of sexual assualt know the person who is assaulting them, might even be in a relationship with them, it happens in all different locations, women of colour are often greater targets of sexual assault than white women. So there are a lot of issues that need to be unpacked and people need to have their conceptions of what sexual assault is broadened.
“People also need to learn what it means to support survivors because I think people also have this idea that sexual assault happens to people we don’t know […] the truth is though that around 1 in 4 students, and in my opinion that is actually a low estimate […], experience some kind of sexual assault throughout the course of their post-secondary education.
“So we have to face it, we all know someone who has faced sexual assault whether we realize it or not. And we have to learn how to be supportive, how to not reinforce the common victim blaming ideas that is so pervasive in our society.”