Content warning: This article discusses sexual harassment.
The Flying Squad — the autonomous activist wing of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3902, which represents contract academic workers across U of T — recently assembled several clotheslines along Philosopher’s Walk covered in student testimonies in support of allegations of sexual violence, workplace harassment, and racism in the Faculty of Music.
The testimonies were taken from comments — many of them anonymous — associated with signatures on the Faculty of Music Undergraduate Association’s (FMUA) open letter.
The letter, released over a month ago after sexual violence allegations against a professor in the faculty began circulating on social media, demands that the faculty commission an “external and impartial review,” among other things. It has garnered signatures from students inside and outside the faculty, as well as from U of T faculty members.
In response to the open letter, Faculty of Music Dean Don McLean promised to create a working group to better the environment within the faculty and garner more attendance at training sessions, particularly about consent. “It is clear that we have failed to ensure the safety of our community,” he wrote at the time.
CUPE3902 Chair Amy Conwell told The Varsity that the Flying Squad’s initiative was taken to support the student-driven reform in the Faculty of Music and to keep the faculty in the public eye to make sure they follow through with the FMUA’s demands.
“This action combines art with activism to make a feminist statement,” Conwell wrote in an email to The Varsity. “Survivors will air the Faculty of Music’s ‘dirty laundry’ and hold perpetrators accountable.”
The notes express some students’ fears about walking around campus, and their anger at the faculty for ignoring what was essentially an “open secret” for so long. One note chastised the faculty for “protecting predators” and another read, “It is unacceptable to expect students to come to school and feel unsafe in order to keep the peace.”
“I’m tired of being sexually harassed by my profs,” a student expressed. “[I’m] tired of being groped. Tired of having my career threatened for non-compliance.”
Conwell added that CUPE3902 has filed policy grievances on the allegedly unsafe working environment at the faculty, supported member-organizing, and helped with the filing of workplace complaints, with the hopes of prompting urgent investigation into the complaints aired against the faculty.