English Matters

ACCUTE Statement on Bystander Intervention

As a result of conversations with a number of our members across the country at all stages of the profession over the past three months, the ACCUTE executive concluded that we needed to issue a follow-up to Past President Manina Jones’ thoughtful January 2018 statement regarding sexual harassment in English Studies in Canada. The following statement serves as a reminder of the serious impacts of sexual harassment and gender-based violence, and specifically describes the critical work of “bystander intervention” that can be undertaken by our members at the same time that it outlines the steps we are taking as an association to continue to engage in these difficult yet very necessary conversations.

The statement has been approved by the ACCUTE Board and has the support of the Federation for the Social Sciences and Humanities.

ACCUTE Statement on Bystander Intervention

Public disclosures continue to emerge that make responding to and working toward ending sexual harassment and gender-based violence in Canadian English Studies a critical part of ACCUTE’s mandate. We are charged with exploring the professional concerns of our members, and protecting the interests and aspirations of all members, from the beginning to end of career. Here, I want to recall past-President Manina Jones’ very clear expression of the role ACCUTE has played and continues to play in addressing sexual harassment in Canadian English Studies. In her January 2018 statement, she outlines the multiple impacts of sexual harassment: “In addition to infringing on academic freedom, violating the culture of collegiality and respect, and fostering an inequitable learning environment, sexual harassment has had devastating consequences on the personal lives and professional aspirations of students and colleagues. It has tangible outcomes in relation to how our discipline in shaped, who is welcomed within it, who is silenced and excluded” (1).

The 2018 statement describes the need for “bystander intervention,” which I would argue at this moment in time includes the critical work that members, especially senior tenured members of the profession, can do to insist upon the responsibility of institutions of higher learning to acknowledge and respect the words of survivors and to ensure that those who are most vulnerable to exploitation, bullying, or silencing (students, post-docs, and contingent faculty) are not ignored or excluded but instead supported and given access to the resources necessary to have their voices heard and their rights defended. We will continue in the weeks and months ahead to work closely with our members, and those of other associations, including Canadian Chairs of English (CACE) and the Federation for the Social Sciences and Humanities to think through what steps we can take to educate, support, and protect members at all stages of career. We will be continuing the important discussions begun at Congress 2018 through a follow-up Board-Sponsored panel on this issue. We will include a statement about appropriate conference conduct in our program (begun last year). And we will be working collaboratively toward the creation of broader educational sessions that address key concerns of members (focusing on topics such as sexual harassment, gender-based violence, cyberbullying, and defamation law).

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