Politics TAs sexually harassed & verbally abused, DSC presidents say

University District

Students in the Department of Political Studies received a mass email yesterday addressing reports of sexual harassment

Credit: 
Graphic by Mikayla Wronko

There have been reports of “credential questioning, verbal abuse, physical intimidation and sexual harassment” of teaching assistants by political studies students, according to an email sent out to undergraduate students in the program on Wednesday afternoon.

The email — sent by Political Studies Departmental Student Council (DSC) Co-Presidents Cameron McNeill and Connor Casciato — stated that the issues were brought to their attention at the most recent departmental meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

“To put it in the clearest possible terms: as both human beings and students at Queen's University, this kind of behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” the co-presidents wrote. They added that while they’ll discuss options with the department, it’s the responsibility of students to behave “in a way that is acceptable in an institution like Queen’s”.

“We recognize that the actions of the very small minority are not representative of the generally remarkable group of students we have in this Department,” they continued.

McNeill, ArtSci ’16, told The Journal in an interview that the issues were brought forward by the department’s Chair of the Equity Committee, Professor J. Andrew Grant, along with the department’s head TAs.

However, details of the incidents weren’t discussed at the meeting and McNeill says everything he knows was included in the email. Professor Grant is currently in Geneva and would likely be unable to comment on the issues, McNeill added.

“It was news to all of us that this was going on. We were all surprised and that email yesterday was sort of the first step.”

McNeill said he met with Political Studies Department Head David Haglund on Thursday morning to discuss how to address concerns moving forward.

“The next step, I think, will be figuring out what has been going on in a more specific sense [in] the classes and communicating with the TAs on how we can best prevent this from happening in the future,” he said.

If an official investigation begins, McNeill said delegation and oversight will be provided by the department administrators. The co-presidents were asked by the department to convey the message to the undergraduate student body.

Students may see one change to classes as a result of the reported incidents. McNeill said there may be a section added to class syllabi stating expectations for student behaviour during tutorials and interactions with TAs.

Casciato, ArtSci ’16, was appointed as co-president of the Political Studies DSC last Thursday, Nov. 19 — after the departmental meeting on Nov. 18 — to replace Jon Wiseman. Wiseman left the position to join the AMS as commissioner of internal affairs on Nov. 11.

Full email:

To Our Political Studies Undergraduates,

At the most recent Departmental meeting, some very disturbing revelations were brought to our attention, and we felt that this was the most appropriate avenue by which to address them. There have been a number of recent reports from our Teaching Assistants of credential questioning, verbal abuse, physical intimidation and sexual harassment on the part of Political Studies students. To put it in the clearest possible terms: as both human beings and students at Queen's University, this kind of behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

As the leaders of tomorrow, it is, to be quite honest, remarkably disheartening to hear that students in our Department have treated their peers, who volunteer their time and were in our shoes a couple of years ago, in a manner that is so unbecoming of the reputation that our Department has forged over the past 120 years.

As your representatives at the Departmental level, we will be working with our professors and TAs to mitigate the risk of similar problems in the future. However, the responsibility ultimately falls to you, the student, to act in a way that is acceptable at an institution like Queen's. We recognize that the actions of the very small minority are not representative of the generally remarkable group of students we have in this Department, so we hope you will join us in coming together to ensure that these issues don't have to be raised again.

Best of luck with your term papers and exams.

Cameron and Connor

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