The meeting never should have happened at all

Nearly a week ago the president of Wilfred Laurier University issued a statement.

It’s a gratifying thing to read.

When the issue first broke, I erred on the side of caution. As a person, and as the president of Laurier, I am sensitive to the viewpoints and concerns of our students, staff and faculty. As an employer, I am cognisant that the four people who were in that meeting room are employees and one is also a student. All four are entitled to due process. I did not want to rush to judgement; rather, I wanted to ensure we were able to objectively assess the facts and make sound decisions flowing from that assessment.

We hired an external fact-finder with expertise in human resources issues. I have received the report and we are taking decisive action to ensure these events will not be repeated. The report, along with what we already knew, has led me to the following conclusions and actions.

There were numerous errors in judgement made in the handling of the meeting with Ms. Lindsay Shepherd, the TA of the tutorial in question. In fact, the meeting never should have happened at all. No formal complaint, nor informal concern relative to a Laurier policy, was registered about the screening of the video. This was confirmed in the fact-finding report.

The errors in judgement were compounded by misapplication of existing university policies and procedures. Basic guidelines and best practices on how to appropriately execute the roles and responsibilities of staff and faculty were ignored or not understood.

Procedures in how to apply university policies and under what circumstances were not followed. The training of key individuals to meet the expectations of the university in addressing an issue such as this was not sufficient and must be improved.

There was also institutional failure that allowed this to happen. And when there is institutional failure, responsibility ultimately starts and ends with me.

Going forward, we will implement improved training and new procedures and engage in a very specific administrative review to strengthen and enhance confidence in what students and employees can expect at Laurier.

Specifically:

There was no wrongdoing on the part of Ms. Shepherd in showing the clip from TVO in her tutorial. Showing a TVO clip for the purposes of an academic discussion is a reasonable classroom teaching tool. Any instructional material needs to be grounded in the appropriate academic underpinnings to put it in context for the relevance of the learning outcomes of the course. The ensuing discussion also needs to be handled properly. We have no reason to believe this discussion was not handled well in the tutorial in question.

I have apologized to Ms. Shepherd publicly, as has Dr. Rambukkana, her supervising professor. The university has conveyed to her today the results of the fact-finding report, to make sure she understands it is clear that she was involved in no wrongdoing. The university is taking concrete steps to make changes to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

It has been made clear to those who were involved in the meeting with Ms. Shepherd that their conduct does not meet the high standards I set for staff and faculty.

Boom. Lindsay Shepherd did nothing wrong. The three people who bullied her, however, did.

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