Montreal Exclusive

Prominent Montreal writers investigated in Concordia sexual misconduct allegations inquiry

Jon Paul Fiorentino, David McGimpsey are both subjects of complaints in 3rd-party probe

February 28, 2018

Concordia professors David McGimpsey, left, and Jon Paul Fiorentino, both part-time teachers in Concordia University's English department, are the subject of complaints in a probe into allegations of sexual misconduct at the university, CBC News has learned.

Two established Montreal writers are the subject of complaints in a third-party investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct at Concordia University, CBC News has learned.

Both Jon Paul Fiorentino and David McGimpsey teach part-time in the university's English department. 

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They were assigned to teach classes this semester, but their classes were reassigned to other professors shortly after the semester began.

In January, writer Mike Spry published an essay describing a toxic atmosphere within the program. Spry has undergraduate and graduate degrees in English literature and creative writing from Concordia.

In his essay, Spry described widespread sexual misconduct without naming individuals. His essay was shared widely, and within days, Concordia's administration took several measures in response.

It promised to launch a third-party investigation.

As well, the school set about creating a sexual misconduct task force and clarified guidelines surrounding student-professor relationships.

In addition, it promised to consult with students, faculty and staff in the creative writing program and to review the climate within the English department.

But the university has refused to comment on who is being investigated, citing privacy concerns.

Audio recording

Concordia University hired labour lawyer Catherine Maheu to conduct an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct within the school's creative writing program.

CBC News has obtained an audio recording that sheds some light onto Maheu's investigation.

In the recording, Maheu is heard explaining her role in probing the allegations.

"What you need to understand is that what I am doing is complaint-driven," she said, "which means that there are complaints that were filed against Dr. McGimpsey and Professor — or Mr. — Fiorentino."

She goes on to explain that her investigation is separate from a second investigation, set to be done by the university itself, into the cultural climate in the department.

She says complaints are made to the university then passed on to her. She also says she has the authority to independently contact anyone she determines may have information relevant to her investigation.

The specific details of the allegations contained in the complaints against both professors are unknown.

Maheu did not respond to a request for comment, and Concordia University declined to comment.

Concordia University promised decisive action after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced in its creative writing program. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Well-known writers

Both writers are decorated figures in the Canadian literary scene.

According to his biography on Concordia's web page, McGimpsey has written six collections of poetry.

His book Li'l Bastard was nominated for the 2012 Governor General's Award in poetry. From 2010 to 2015, he was a contributing editor of the literary magazine Joyland.

Fiorentino has written ten books. He also served as the publisher and editor-in-chief of the literary magazine Matrix. The magazine would not confirm if he is still in that position.  He was also a contributor to Joyland.

He graduated from both the university's undergraduate and master's creative writing program. According to his online resume, Fiorentino began teaching at Concordia in 2002.

Both men have done paid work for the CBC.

Neither Fiorentino nor McGimpsey responded to a request for comment.

Magazine reacts

Joyland magazine responded Wednesday morning to the news that Fiorentino and McGimpsey were under investigation with a post on Facebook. 

In it, they said Fiorentino's work for the magazine would be removed from the archives, and that it was reaching out to the community in Montreal to see "whether that toxic culture impacted McGimpsey's past Joyland editing."

"What we're learning from this, and in talks with people, will go into policy changes, gut checks, and doing things better," the post said.

"As writers, as women, as survivors, reading about the culture at Concordia has been heart wrenching, but Joyland is a writing community, not an institution, and our strength is that we can listen to each other and change," it continued.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate McKenna

Kate McKenna is an award-winning journalist and author. She works with CBC Montreal. Email her at kate.mckenna@cbc.ca

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