After we finished talking, I called my friend and said there had just been a misunderstanding. While the Mc Gill Charter of Students’ Rights states that “every student has a right to be free from a sexual solicitation or advance made by a person in a position to offer or deny to the student an academic advantage or any opportunity pertaining to the status of student, where this person knows or ought reasonably to know that this solicitation is unwelcome,” and that “every student has a right to be free from a reprisal or threat of reprisal for the rejection of a sexual solicitation or advance,” the process going forward with such a complaint is murky at best, with no guarantee of accountability action on the part of the University.
Furthermore, there is no mention of situations to which students appear to consent, but given the power differentials between students and professors, only do so within that agency we, as students, really don’t have.
There is a sexual harassment policy, but it’s debatable to what degree professor-student affairs fall under this category, and the sexual harassment policy at Mc Gill has a reputation of being traumatizing for the plaintiffs, with little to no results.
Things came to a head one night in winter, when he asked me to come in to scan a book after hours. We were chatting, as we normally did, and he joked about how short I am. He swore to me that I was the only student he was seeing, and I swore I wouldn’t tell anyone about us — which I didn’t, not until the very end.
I asked him how tall he was, and he gave me an answer in centimetres, which was next to useless to me. And had he tried to kiss me, I wouldn’t have stopped him. We fell into a habit where I would work in his office during the day, and then see him almost every other night.
The next night, I was out for shisha and drinks with friends. “A student in the department told me he asked her out on the street,” one of my friends exclaimed. We talked about our experiences with him, laughed at some of his quirkier sexual tendencies, and tried to figure out what, if anything, we were going to do.
“I saw him holding hands with a really young looking woman in the Mile End back in winter,” another friend remarked. I told one of the friends I was out with that I’d been having an affair with him, and she urged me to confront him. When I told him what I’d heard, he asked to Skype me, and he denied all the allegations. It turns out ‘anything’ is going to be more difficult than I thought — other women this professor has slept with, propositioned, sent inappropriate emails to, or generally made uncomfortable are unwilling to come forward and talk about their experiences.
I felt that, more than my professor, he was becoming my friend.
I reminded myself that going in for any other reason would be a waste of both my time and his, not to mention any other students who had course-related questions.
Given that the only time I had asked for a break, all I’d gotten from him in return was a bunch of ominous commentary, I did what I thought was best. Then I blocked his number and his email so that he could only contact me using my student email address.
I just dealt with it, continuing along because I knew there was an end-date. As I walked home, I expected to feel some kind of sadness. I was devastated for a long time after I realized that I wasn’t anything but a mildly entertaining wet hole to this man. I had been dedicated to his ideas and to his work, and he had taught me most of what I knew at that point about academia itself.
I remember thinking he was funny, kind, and attractive. I don’t find that many people attractive to begin with, but as a student, I felt particularly guilt-ridden about attraction to a teacher.
Over the course of that semester, I would be sure to only go to his office hours when I had a questions about the class material, even though I wanted to go and chat with him more.
The first time I went into his office, we ended up chatting more about the town I’m from, which is where he did his graduate work, than the actual course material.