TRU Investigation Week 2: TRU administration silences TRU communities and Happy Holidays actions.
Oleksandr (Sasha) Kondrashov
Thank you, everyone, for your responses and support after I compiled the first week’s media coverage about the TRU investigation: https://krasun.ca/2021/11/28/tru-investigation-what-do-we-know-and-what-actions-are-needed/ . After checking the outrage from TRU communities, I was hopeful that the TRU administration would make the most appropriate, acceptable, adequate decision and grant paid leave to two senior administrators who have been accused of alleged sexual harassment, anti-indigenous racism and bullying. Unfortunately, the TRU administration’s inactions have hurt the reputation of TRU communities. TRU administration has continued silencing every group, every individual who came forward to support the process and asked to remove senior administrators from their positions of power while the investigation is ongoing.
TRU Faculty organized the first protest on Monday, November 29th. Close to 100 people gathered at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) to advocate for those who came forward with allegations of discrimination and harassment against the university’s senior administrators. CFJC’ Amandalina Letterio and Jessica Wallace from Kamloops this Week reported on the peaceful walk. Both reporters featured students and faculty members who support victims of bullying and harassment. Law professor Charis Kamphuis spoke to both CFJC and KTW and attended the march on Monday. Charis Kamphuis said that “countless” additional people have contacted her with stories after news broke of the investigation. She cited inaccuracies in the TRU’s communications department’s response, including claims and allegations, taken seriously and addressed quickly. I attended the march with other faculty members and students and shared my appreciation to Charis for all the extra work she is doing to support the victims of violence.
I also want to thank all the reporters for their coverage to break the silence and everyone who left public comments on social media and wrote e-mails to support alleged harassment and bullying victims. After the first protest, Jessica Wallace joined the KLW weekly video discussions and offered the latest update on the Thompson Rivers University investigation into senior executives. Armchair Mayor Mel Rothenburger shared a video and write-up on the Handling of the TRU investigation, which requires a delicate balance. Chad Klassen from CFJC reported on TRUFA Calls for TRU to waive non-disclosure agreements for all future harassment cases. The story was picked up on the East Coast, where Kerry Campbell reported from Prince Edward Island (PEI) that the use of NDAs has created ‘culture of silence and fear’ on the University of PEI campus.
Jessica Wallace from Kamloops This Week reminded the local community that Another march planned at Thompson Rivers University in the wake of investigation. The hope was that maybe after two faculty protests, TRU administration would decide to listen to Thompson Rivers University Faculty Association (TRUFA) and CUPE 4879 whose press releases were shared by the Financial Post and Business Wire. They are calling for the two administrators to be placed on paid leave until the investigation wraps up. The protest was planned just before the Board of Governors meeting to address the concern. Again, the TRU community came together, uniting faculty, staff and students and voicing concerns. Only 50 people were allowed to attend the Board of Governors meeting in person to adhere to the COVID-19 protocols, so very few public members stayed for the board meeting that had not even put the TRU investigation concern on their original agenda.
I was one of the 50 who witnessed how TRU students were silenced during the meeting. Ten minutes after the meeting and after realizing that no changes to the agenda had been made to include discussion about the TRU investigations, one of the TRU student’s leaders stood up and asked the Board of Governors to take the appropriate action and put senior administration on leave. The chair of the board of governors did not allow students to express their concerns and terminated the meeting, citing that the meeting had been disrupted when all TRU students present at the meeting raised and asked to be heard. Students were silenced when members of the board of governors left the room and held the rest of the meeting online. Sean Brady from Kamloops this Week titled the article Protesters force TRU board of governors meeting to end and reflected Board of Governor’s construction of the events. Fortunately, Castanet interviewed students and included student voices in their coverage: Protesters halt TRU meeting
It was powerful to watch students rise at the Board of Governors meeting and ask questions about the TRU investigation and inaction. Unfortunately, TRUSU leaders now have also been silenced similarly to TRUFA and CUPE leaders. After everyone left the meeting, I came to say thank you to students, and although at this time their concerns have been silenced similarly to TRU faculty and staff, students have a lot of power. TRUSU represents thousands of students and can ask for support from students’ unions across Canada and demand appropriate actions aligned with TRU’s mission, vision, and value statements. TRU administration cannot keep students silenced as they are the core stakeholder and their leadership need to be respected, and concerns be taken seriously.
The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), the national federation representing more than 72,000 academic staff and professionals at over 120 universities, colleges, and institutes in all provinces, wrote a letter to the TRU administration. The letter was shared with TRUFA members and CBC to express to them and the entire Board of Governors CAUT’s grave concerns about the mishandling of complaints made against senior leaders at Thompson Rivers University. In the letter, David Robinson CAUT Executive Director, noted that “the decision to keep senior administrators active in their positions during the investigation casts clouds of doubt over the entire process. It also threatens to inflict serious reputational damage and disrupt the workplace for all employees”.
TRU Board of Governors at their December meeting demonstrated that faculty (TRUFA), students (TRUSU), and staff (CUPE) leadership and their actions have no impact on the decisions of the board, and their voices do not matter. A video that the TRU president shared this week, in addition to the e-mail message from December 1 has no acknowledgement of the concerns expressed by TRUFA and CUPE and blames the media for raising concerns. Media plays a critical role in this investigation. The media made concerns public and allowed TRU communities to share their views. If media was silent like the Board of Governors, the toxicity that silences everyone who experiences abuse of power can be prolonged. The video from the TRU president was recorded before student leaders protested at the Board of Governors meeting and now demonstrates that the president is not willing to listen to student leaders’ concerns.
The question remains: What TRU staff, students, and faculty can do to keep the Board of Governors and TRU president accountable and listen to each group’s elected leaders? The answer is to work together and keep voicing their concerns. As we are entering the holiday season and the TRU administration might feel that the concerns will be forgotten in New Year, I hope TRUSU, TRUFA and CUPE will keep working together and reaching out to their communities and asking for change.
If you have time during the holiday season, please send the letter to your MLA, MP, City Councillor or to Minister of Education in your Province or anyone who might be able to stand up against bullying, harassment, anti-indigenous racism and other injustices that might be still unvoiced and invisible at TRU and possibly other universities across Canada (UPEI is cited in this letter). The letter can ask them to help hurt TRU communities, including TRUSU, TRUFA and CUPE members. The letter can also remind those who have the power to change that silence is toxic for victims of power abuse, and those who can act need to break the silence. Please remind those who have power, that at least 13 people at TRU voiced their concerns and initiated an investigation. During the holiday season, complainants and their loved ones will be waiting for ten months for TRU administration and the Board of Governors to make things right and put senior administrators on paid leave to allow a fair, transparent investigation process to begin. Happy Holidays and in 2022, I am hopeful the TRU investigation concerns will be addressed adequately, appropriately and acceptably for everyone who experiences bullying, harassment, indigenous violence and other forms of power abuse. Unfortunately, as was seen in week 2, when concerns were made public, the TRU administration chose to keep silencing TRU communities. Do not allow the silence to continue and protect TRU’s values, mission and vision when the Board of Governors and TRU President neglect TRU stakeholder’s concerns. I will keep updating and thank everyone who sent me your letters and the coverage of the TRU investigation to compile all the sources and keep my global communities informed about the process.