Simon Fraser University’s alleged history of sexual harassment has followed it to India.  SFU President Michael Stevenson went to India this week, along with B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, to sign a “memorandum of understanding” between SFU and the Public Health Foundation of India.  The plan is to launch an exchange program between SFU Faculty of Health Sciences and the Public Health Foundation of India as well as two other institutions in India.

But on Dec. 2, just after Stevenson and Campbell left for India, a woman who says she dropped out of SFU due to chronic sexual harassment in the Center for the Contemporary Arts, sent an e-mail to the Public Health Foundation of India.  She asked directors to postpone making a deal with Stevenson while he continues to follow the SFU “tradition” of evading it’s alleged history of sexual harassment and deception in the Center for the Contemporary Arts. There has been no response from the Public Health Foundation of India. 

The drop-out finds SFU’s sudden claim to be a promoter of health to be hypocritical.  Certainly the psychological health of female students was of no interest to SFU administrators, says the drop-out, considering the strain they allowed female students to be placed under. “I had emerged from a childhood of serious abuse, I was the first one in my immediate family to go to university… and when I got there, I was reduced to tits and ass.”  And other women, some of whom she heard about through third parties, also reportedly experienced strain as a result of the sexual harassment at SFU. 

For 20 years, SFU has avoided dealing with the issue of sexual harassment in the School for the Contemporary Arts.  Several years ago, the drop-out attempted to return to take a studio course required for her degree but asked SFU to help her take it without encountering the alleged “letch” who regularly taught it.  She thought taking it as a directed studies would be an option.  But SFU administrators apparently arranged for the “letch” to sit out that course the next semester.  “But they didn’t tell me!”, exclaims the drop-out, so she missed the opportunity to enroll. “They have a code of silence when it comes to sexual harassment,” she says.  It was not the first time she’d enocuntered it, and it would not be the last.  

That code of silence appears to extend to Stevenson who, the drop-out says, “didn’t have the integrity” to respond to her written briefing about it. It bothers her to now see Stevenson on an all expenses paid trip to India promoting himself “as somebody committed to the betterment of the world.”  

The drop-out last year communicated to Stevenson and Dr. Ernie Love, Director of the new Segal Graduate School of Business, that SFU’s “expansionism” could not be detached from it’s unresolved history of expecting female students to provide sexual services to male professors. “You can’t build a business school on a brothel,” she wrote in a July 2006 letter to Dr. Love. 

And she feels the same way about the new deals SFU’s President Stevenson is making with institutions in India.  You can’t travel half way around the world to promote education, she says, while ignoring the fact that “the woman down the street couldn’t get one” due to SFU’s sexual harassment practices.  

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