Silent march held to pressure TRU to suspend administrators accused of harassment | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Silent march held to pressure TRU to suspend administrators accused of harassment

FILE PHOTO - Students are seen walking in front of Arts and Education Building at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, Oct. 20, 2021.

A silent march was held at Thompson Rivers University today in protest of the way the university is handling an on-going investigation of two senior administrators.

Larry Phillips and Matt Milovick have been accused by current and former staff and faculty members of anti-Indigenous racism and bullying behaviour. Phillips is the assistant vice-president of people and culture at the university, and Matt Milovick is the university’s vice-president of finance and administration.

The allegations against Philips include sexual harassment.

Jenna Woodrow, an associate teaching professor of philosophy and is the chair of the TRU faculty association equity committee, said some members of the university community are not in agreement with the decision to let them keep working at the school while the investigation is underway.

“We believe the senior administrators should be put on paid leave until the investigation is closed,” she said. “The racial and sexual nature of the investigation can be triggering to several members of the university community, including the complainants.”

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Woodrow said the committee wrote a letter to the board with six calls of action on Friday, Nov. 26, and is still waiting to hear back.

“We are asking for the immediate suspension of the senior administrators pending the results of the Board of Governor’s investigation,” she said. “We want more transparency of the investigation processes and findings and more concern shown for the safety and privacy of the complainants.”

The committee asked for more meaningful consultation with all members of the school community and particularly equity-deserving groups, among other demands aimed to support equity, diversity and inclusion. 

Soon after the allegations against Phillips and Milovick were received through an anonymous email last week, an independent sub-committee was established by the university to investigate, according to a media release from TRU, Nov. 24.

The sub-committee has been investigating the matter with the guidance of an independent investigator, as well as an independent Indigenous investigator, along with legal counsel, the university said.

“The sub-committee has worked together with the independent and Indigenous investigators, and legal counsel to put all appropriate and defensible safeguards in place for the complainants, in order to maintain the integrity of the investigation,” said Marilyn McLean, chair of the Board of Governors, in the release.

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The sub-committee has remained fully cognizant of the need for privacy, for those against whom the allegations have been levelled, as well as for the complainants, the university said.

They are using a methodical process where independent investigators gather information from complainants and follow-up with complainants to ensure the information the investigators have collected is accurate.

“At this time, these allegations need to be proven, confirmed and substantiated,” McLean said. ”Until such time as the investigation is complete and the findings and recommendations are made, it would be unfair and unjust for any action to be taken against these individuals.”

It is expected that the sub-committee will reach its findings in the first quarter of 2022.

The silent march started with a gathering at the Clock Tower at on campus. From there, the procession marched in silence to the Human Resources building.

“Our silence is to show support and solidarity for the complainants and for any who are made to feel vulnerable,” Woodrow said. “Once we arrive at human resources we are going to call on university administrators to fill their promises to make the university an equity minded place and to strengthen and honour our Indigenous relationships.”

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Woodrow said many in the university community have worked hard to make a genuine, equity-minded place of belonging at the campus.

“This crisis represents an opportunity to move forward so at the end of it we come out better, moving past anti-aboriginal sentiments and misogyny,” she said. “We walk to show solidarity for the demand the senior administrators be immediately placed on leave.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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