On March 16, the Music Undergraduate Students’ Association (MUSA) announced that Noah Century resigned from his position as Vice-President (VP) External. Century had previously campaigned for the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP External Affairs position, but withdrew his candidacy after a Formal Censure from Elections SSMU.
Elections SSMU issued the censure on March 11 after Century told a reporter from The McGill Daily on March 7 that his takeaway from the allegations of sexual and gendered violence against former VP External Affairs David Aird was, “Don’t get caught.”
MUSA President Lauren Toccalino said that on March 9, Century let the MUSA Council know that comments he had made to The Daily may affect his SSMU campaign. MUSA received feedback from both music students and McGill students at large after the censure was issued. Toccalino said that although it was difficult to lose a member of the MUSA Executive, it was the right decision to call for Century’s resignation.
“Students were no longer feeling that [Century] was representing them,” Toccalino said. “It was also a council decision [to call for his resignation], not just students. [Century] was no longer fulfilling the responsibilities of his position to carry out the mandate of the MUSA Executive.”
Century said that he did not intend to cause anyone harm and that he regrets his statement to The Daily.
“Being a part of MUSA and a part of SSMU […] has been the most enjoyable part of this year,” Century said. “[….] Running for SSMU candidacy […] was the best part of this semester and losing all of that in less than a week has been a pretty serious blow. It's made all the worse because it was caused by a comment that was a mistake, a comment that I would not under any circumstance ever have said. At this time I'm still confused as to why I said it.”
According to Toccalino, it is important to acknowledge comments and actions such as Century’s because they have an effect on larger conversations about sexual violence.
“MUSA will definitely be considering implementing a sexual violence and awareness workshop and a workshop that teaches executives how to use language and approach this topic in a safe way,” Toccalino said. “Those structures are not formally in place yet, but I hope to pass these along to the next [MUSA] president.”
Although Century told The Daily reporter that his statement was a joke, SSMU Chief Electoral Officer Alexander Nehrbass received a formal complaint against Century on March 8. In an email to The McGill Tribune, Nehrbass wrote that upon investigation of Century’s comments, Elections SSMU decided that Century’s conduct was a violation of the SSMU Equity Policy.
“Censuring [Century] was a difficult decision to make–[…] Elections SSMU is supposed to remain neutral and uninvolved in promoting or hurting a candidate’s campaign as far as possible,” Nehrbass wrote. “[….] I felt the right precedent to set in this situation was to put aside Elections SSMU's duty of neutrality in order to stand by the SSMU's obligation to promote equity.”
After Century’s censure, a “Campaign Against Noah Century for SSMU VP External” event was created on Facebook by Lauria Galbraith, U3 Arts, and Greta Hoaken, U3 Arts. Galbraith wrote in a message to The Tribune that the event was made in order to reach more students and make sure that the implications of Century’s comments were made clear.
“I think that there is no tolerance in situations like these because comments like Century’s are so incredibly belittling to the experience of survivors, as well as very ignorant to what rape culture is and how it gets perpetuated,” Galbraith wrote. “Most of the defence that I heard on Century’s behalf was that it was ‘just a joke,’ but it really wasn’t [….] There just isn’t a joke there.”
Hoaken wrote in a message to The Tribune that comments such as the one made by Century display a flippant attitude toward sexual violence. According to Hoaken, this type of attitude contributes to decisions that are not pro-survivor and which fail to create a safe campus environment–an issue that is especially important given recent events: Aird and former SSMU President Ben Ger recently resigned due to allegations of sexual and gendered violence, and former Arts Representative to SSMU Igor Sadikov resigned following accusations of psychological abuse in a past relationship.
“I think the key thing to note here is the difference between punishment and accountability,” Hoaken wrote. “We aren't punishing Century for what he said simply because we did not like it. Rather, we are raising the issue that if you are going to make light of the trauma suffered by survivors, then you probably aren't fit to hold public office at McGill–especially given the context of this year's resignations.”
Additionally, Galbraith wrote that Century’s continued actions on social media did not demonstrate that his apology was sincere.
“[…After] issuing a public apology, Century liked a comment on [his] post which said […], ‘Too many triggered sjws [sic] right,’” Galbraith wrote. “So, it does not seem like [Century] actually felt remorse for his statement or understood why it was taken as such a grave offence.”
According to Century, his apology was genuine and weight should not be placed on the comments that he liked on Facebook.
“I know there are a lot of people that were saying that because I liked that comment, that clearly indicated that my apology was not sincere and it absolutely was,” Century said. “At the exact moment where I published my apology […] the situation was over and I was trying to move on. So, I was reading through the comments and some I found resonated true and some I found just simply amusing, and I just starting liking some of them.”