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Third party investigator criticizes UPEI Student Union’s anti-harassment policies, internal investigation

UPEI Student Union VP of Academic and External, Taya Nabuurs, speaks during a special meeting held at the university on Sunday to detail an ombudsperson’s report on allegations made against former president Chelsea Perry. Next to Nabuurs is interim president and VP of Finance and Administration, Will McGuigan.  ©THE GUARDIAN
UPEI Student Union member, from right, Taya Nabuurs and president William McGuigan during a special meeting held at the university in March. ©THE GUARDIAN - Mitch MacDonald

The UPEI Student Union’s (UPEISU) policies and procedures for anti-harassment do not meet minimum standards, a third party investigator hired by the union has determined.

HR Atlantic has also determined that due to those shortcomings, an internal investigation undertaken by the UPEISU into a harassment complaint last fall was flawed.

The third party review of an internal investigation and resignation of former UPEISU president Hammad Ahmed was prompted following a complaint made publicly by Megan Rix, former UPEISU VP of Student Life, during a council meeting in March.

During the meeting, Rix said she was told to “keep quiet” after filing a formal complaint of harassment against Ahmed, who later resigned in January.

That prompted a motion for an ombudsperson to investigate whether HR policies were followed in the incident.

A release issued by the UPEISU on Friday stated it regretted any negative impact that may have come to Rix, Ahmed or any other party during the internal investigation and subsequent events.

“The Student Union is committed to adopting recommendations which will ensure harassment complaints will be addressed in a more effective manner by the organization in the future,” stated the release.

The Guardian was unable to reach UPEISU president William McGuigan for further comment.

The review also made a number of recommendations to prevent similar issues in the future.

One of those included updating UPEISU policy to require an investigator to be independent of the complainant or respondent, as well to provide authority to appoint a third party independent investigator if the circumstances of a complaint make it impractical for an investigation to be conducted internally.

Those recommendations also included meeting with Rix and Ahmed to review the findings of the independent investigation and tasking a committee to bring a zero-tolerance policy in line with best practices in the area of anti-harassment and respectful workplace policies before Sept. 2018.

The review also recommended the UPEISU immediately re-circulate its respectful workplace policies to all staff and current members. It also recommended that members receive training on those policies, conducting workplace investigations and on issues of confidentiality with respect to their fiduciary responsibilities.

The UPEISU release said the union was currently working on a number of those recommendations and would continue to do so in the 2018-2019 academic year.

Mitch.MacDonald@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/PEIGuardian

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