September 15, 2014

News | April 4, 2013
PGSS rocked by accusations of sexual harassment
External Affairs Officer claims executives cultivated culture of intimidation
Written by | Visual by Hera Chan

In an atmosphere of distrust and animosity, Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) executives squared off yesterday at a meeting in the Thomson House Annex on allegations of bullying and sexual harassment brought forward by External Affairs Officer Errol Salamon and Equity Commissioner Gretchen King.

In a letter to the PGSS Board of Directors obtained by The Daily, Salamon and King alleged that some members of the PGSS executive routinely engaged in “sexual harassment, psychological intimidation, and discriminatory behaviour.”

The meeting was the culmination of a year-long conflict between members of an executive team where mistrust and divisions run so deep that officers regularly record each other’s public and private conversations without prior knowledge.

“It seems as if that these days, everybody is recording things. […] I feel like I need to practice what I’m going to say,” a member of the executive told The Daily.

The hostility pushed several members – including Salamon – to seek external help.

“People are extremely upset. […] We see each other every day and it has been getting worse and worse every day,” the same executive added.

For nearly an hour, several executive officers argued with Salamon over the validity of his claims.

According to Salamon, an officer on the executive team exposed themselves and masturbated in front of him and another executive officer after a meeting in June. “I was appalled, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe anyone would do that, especially in front of someone [they] didn’t actually know very well,” Salamon told The Daily.

The executive officer in question said they only removed their pants.

“We were drinking, we were socializing. It was not PGSS business […] there was some consumption of marijuana by some people, and during that time, I did remove my pants, that’s true, but I never exposed myself, I never took out my genitalia,” they said.

The executive further alleged the claims were fabricated in response to disagreement that erupted between the two over a motion to censor Salamon at Council.

“I was willing to entertain alternative solutions to a censor motion, […] during this meeting [Salamon] stated ‘I will retaliate’ if a censor motion was brought forward, stating that [he] would accuse me of sexual harassment…”

For Salamon, the June incident marked the beginning of a series of inappropriate sexual conducts from the same executive member, including making sexual advances at Salamon prior to the team’s departure to the executive retreat in Mont Tremblant and sexualized comments that were uttered toward another PGSS member who sat on one of Salamon’s committees.

“We’re talking about ten months of discomfort. […] I feel so uncomfortable. I’ve been bullied throughout this term,” Salamon said.
Other members of the executive team also made additional sexualized comments toward Salamon, he said. In one instance, an executive officer asked Salamon why he had not considered sleeping with the executive officer who had allegedly exposed themselves.

In another instance, Salamon alleged that another member of the executive team threatened to reveal his relationship with a member of Divest McGill before an endorsement vote on the divestment campaign. According to Salamon, the threat was made in an attempt to sabotage the campaign. The allegation was denied by the executive officer in question at yesterday’s meeting.

Salamon is currently on a leave of absence, citing hostility with his co-workers.

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