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UPEI student union under fire from members

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 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 - Mitch MacDonald

A member of the UPEI student union says she was told to “keep quiet” after filing a formal complaint of harassment against former president Hammad Ahmed.

Megan Rix, vice president of student life, criticized the union’s transparency during a special meeting broadcasted live on Facebook Sunday.

The union is now dealing with fallout from two different presidents’ resignations.

RELATED: UPEI student union president tenders resignation after motion of non-confidence

Sunday’s meeting was originally held so ombudsperson Sweta Daboo could detail her findings in the allegations against UPEI president Chelsea Perry, who replaced Ahmed after the former president resigned in January with no explanation, in an effort to maintain transparency.

Members heard a detailed account of the accusations against Perry, which were mainly underage drinking, inappropriate posts on a private social media account and not getting along with several union members.

However, near the end of Sunday’s meeting, Rix rose and criticized the union’s transparency.

“I am upset. They want transparency now that Chelsea Perry has been up for impeachment… they were not transparent when I put in a formal complaint about the harassment I faced in the office because of former president Hammad Ahmed,” said Rix, who wept throughout her statement.

Rix said she had put in a formal complaint, and although an investigation was underway, she was never given an update on it.
Instead, Rix said she had to work with “someone who made me feel scared and uncomfortable for three months” before something was done. She said, at that point, she had to go to Ahmed herself and tell him why he should resign.

Rix said her frustration grew after she was told “to keep quiet” about what happened.

“Because all of it, my whole story, was confidential now and, after all, breaking confidentiality is an impeachable offense. And Hammad resigned respectfully, therefore we have to protect him,” said Rix. “It is my right to share my story and show them that transparency. This should have been my right months ago.”

Rix did not specify who told her to “keep quiet” and left quickly after the meeting stating she did not want to do interviews.

After Rix’s statement, VP of Academic and External, Tayaa Nabuurs, put forward a motion for the ombudsperson to investigate whether HR policies were followed in Rix’s incident.

Ahmed also spoke about the meeting after being contacted by The Guardian.

“To my knowledge, proper HR procedures took place to make sure everyone was in a safe and comfortable workplace environment. I will be answering questions and will be open to dialogue with the ombudsperson who is responsible for investigating the matter,” said Ahmed.

UPEISU interim president, William McGuigan, who is also serving as VP of Finance and Administration, said he was made aware last fall of an internal investigation launched within the union but couldn’t say much else due to it being an HR matter.

“It’s a very serious accusation and we’re definitely going to be seeking our legal advice and looking at our own policies in the organization,” said McGuigan. “HR and the ombudsperson are definitely going to be looking into these allegations.”

McGuigan, who is also president-elect for next year, said he felt the past couple of weeks have harmed the union’s image.

“Under my presidency, there’s definitely going to be some changes,” said McGuigan, who added that livestreaming council meetings will now be the norm. “I think this is something that will help the process, but we definitely have a long way to go… moving forward we can definitely strive to be better.”

McGuigan said it will be at council’s discretion during its next meeting on March 25 whether Perry’s resignation can be accepted as is.

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