Investigation into harassment allegations against Concordia creative writing prof over
Nearly two years after allegations of sexual misconduct in Concordia University’s creative writing program were first raised, an independent investigation into one of the former professors in the program, Jon Paul Fiorentino, is now complete. However, the outcome of the investigation isn’t clear.
CBC obtained a copy of a letter dated Oct. 11 addressed to complainant Emma Healey, a writer now based in Toronto.
The letter from Carolina Willsher, associate vice-president of human resources for Concordia, is in response to Healey’s complaint against Fiorentino.
Healey filed a formal complaint in May 2018 about a romantic relationship she had with Fiorentino while she was a student in the program. It began as consensual, she said, but was eventually marred by an imbalance of power.
“The university took your complaint seriously and your complaint was thoroughly investigated in accordance with the relevant university policies,” Willsher said in the letter.
“I want to inform you that the necessary steps and actions in response to this matter have been taken,” Willsher said.
Willsher then explained that privacy laws prevented her from giving any more details.
“I can however assure you that this matter was thoroughly analyzed and evaluated and that any actions taken are commensurate with the findings of the investigation,” Willsher concluded.
In an interview with CBC, Healey said Wilsher told her in a follow-up telephone call that Fiorentino was no longer employed at Concordia, although Willsher stressed that his employment status wasn’t necessarily tied to the results of the investigation.
Concordia spokesperson Fiona Downey confirmed to CBC that Fiorentino is no longer employed there, but she, too, wouldn’t say if Fiorentino’s employment status is linked to the outcome of the investigation, citing privacy laws.
In January 2018 the university launched multiple internal investigations, a “climate review” of the English department, as well as a task force to provide a university-wide assessment of Concordia’s environment.
Fiorentino and another professor, David McGimpsey, were both the subject of complaints, and their classes were reassigned to other professors.
Downey told CBC in an email that McGimpsey is still a part-time faculty member in the English department. She wouldn’t comment on the status of the investigation into the complaint against him.
Neither Fiorentino nor McGimpsey could be reached for comment.
Fiorentino’s lawyer told CBC in a text message he wouldn’t answer any questions about the case.
Complaint process ‘elliptical, opaque and confusing’
Healey said filing a complaint and waiting for the result have been arduous.
She said throughout the investigation, there were long periods where the university wasn’t in touch with her, and then the independent investigator would suddenly insist she provide new, detailed information on tight deadlines to clarify her previous statements.
“I would not recommend anyone go through this process. It’s incredibly difficult,” Healey said.
“It’s elliptical, opaque and confusing.”
Concordia’s climate review recommended the provincial government change privacy laws to make the process more transparent for complainants, so students could learn if their alleged harasser has been sanctioned, fired or exonerated.
The CAQ government said it had no immediate plans to do so.
Healey said despite her frustration, the end of the investigation is like the closing of a chapter.
“I don’t know if closure is the right word, but it definitely takes something off of my mind.”
Originally posted on CBC News on October 16, 2019 by Steve Rukavina