The already loose ties between the French department and EFUT (U of T’s largest French club) have finally come apart over the club’s risqué choice of promotional materials: condoms.
New French department chair Jeffrey Steele has ordered EFUT to cease all their presentations, as he claims the condoms raise diversity and equity concerns.
In an email allegedly sent by Steele to EFUT’s executives, he wrote, “Instructors as well as Prof. Danièle Issa-Sayegh have informed me that many students have expressed their discomfort with [your distribution of condoms]. Had I known that this would be part of your presentation, I would not have authorized your visits.”
According to Steele, the club’s promotional tactics failed to consider the interest — or rather, disinterest — of students who may not want to engage in sexual-health topics.
“The distribution of condoms during the EFUT French class visits … gave no consideration to: students among us who may be victims of sexual abuse; … whose personal creed or religion does not advocate condom use; … who may be struggling with issues of sexual addiction,” he explained in a separate email.
But EFUT President Antonin Mongeau disagrees. “No equity body of the university is likely to endorse this view,” he told The Varsity.
He claimed that the club has “never” received any complaints, and students have only responded positively to the condoms, which have helped their membership double from 1, 500 last year to about 3, 000 this year.
“Our goal is to promote EFUT in a way that’s unique and fun … besides, they’re incredibly cheap for us to make in large quantities. They’re high value items for young people. We think they’re desirable,” Mongeau added.
He did admit that some of the club’s executives have expressed unease over the condom packaging’s risqué nature but said that they were “pretty soundly outvoted” in an EFUT meeting. The red cardboard flaps feature a pair of lips and red “French Club.”
EFUT’s faculty advisor, criminology professor Matthew Light, has echoed Steele’s concerns.
“I can tell you … that as an instructor, I would also not permit condoms to be passed out in my class, and certainly not as a way to publicize an event,” wrote Light in an email allegedly sent to EFUT executives.
“In general, it might also be a good idea for you and the other executives to have ongoing discussions about what kinds of publicity are appropriate in a classroom and university context,” he suggested.
EFUT has since halted all classroom announcements, but their animosity towards the department continues to grow.
“The French department has … [given] us no funding, no space, literally nothing. Some of their faculty have been kind enough to give us money out of their own pockets or donate time on their own, but as a whole, they’ve only proven obstinate,” said Mongeau.
Steele withdrew the department from the club’s annual breakfast on September 17, but after the event, EFUT left a “gift” outside of the chair’s office: a three kilo wheel of English Stilton cheese.
“We hope he likes cheese because we think this whole situation stinks,” Mongeau explained.
Steele replied, saying that, “the wheel of cheese left at the door of the chair’s office will be donated to a shelter for victims of domestic violence in the city of Toronto.”
Professors Steele, Light, and Issa-Sayegh declined to be interviewed by The Varsity.