Buckets of Data

June 9, 1997

Globe and Mail, 9 June 1997: Reported deal in harassment case troubles SFU faculty

Filed under: Uncategorized — bucketsdata @ 2:33 pm

Reported deal in harassment case troubles SFU faculty

The Globe and Mail, 9 June 1997 A6

VANCOUVER — A report of a secret $12,000 settlement with a Simon Fraser University student who said she was sexually harassed by a swim coach has angered several faculty members and sparked calls for new harassment policies.

Under a settlement approved by SFU president John Stubbs, student Rachel Marsden was compensated for a scholarship she failed to receive, lost summer employment, injuries to her feelings and an inability to work regularly as an aerobics instructor, a Vancouver newspaper has reported. Dr. Stubbs also agreed to allow Ms. Marsden to pass an uncompleted course and to graduate, the paper said.

Dr. Stubbs refused yesterday to comment on the report. Faculty members, however, were critical of the university’s administration.

In interviews, they expressed concerns about Dr. Stubbs’s performance as president and about the school’s administrators, who, they said, offer more support to accusers than to those who may be unfairly accused of harassment. The faculty members also questioned whether the university’s academic standards had been appropriately upheld.

SFU is the third B.C. university in recent years to be riven by a controversy involving a sexual-harassment case. The University of Victoria’s political- science department was in turmoil in 1993 over an unofficial report that included unconfirmed allegations of misconduct. Graduate courses in the political-science department at the University of British Columbia were temporarily discontinued two years ago after the faculty was accused of pervasive racism and sexism.

SFU faculty members used to gloat about their administrators, physics professor Leslie Ballentine said.

“We’d say, ‘Those administrators at UBC, we’re glad we do not have them here,’ ” he said yesterday. “But today, we have no reason to be smug.”

Ms. Marsden, 22, has said she was forced to have sex with SFU swim coach Liam Donnelly during a relationship between the spring of 1994 and the fall of 1995. Mr. Donnelly has denied having any sort of intimate relationship with Ms. Marsden.

Mr. Donnelly and Ms. Marsden met in 1990. In 1993, she tried out for the university swim team that he was coaching. She was not a member of the team during the time she contends she had a relationship with Mr. Donnelly.

He did not participate in a hearing into the allegations. Based on a substantial body of evidence given under oath and not contradicted, a three-member panel decided that Mr. Donnelly had violated the university’s harassment policy.

After Dr. Stubbs fired Mr. Donnelly from his position at the university, the coach said publicly that he was the victim and that Ms. Marsden had harassed him.

SFU faculty members said they were disturbed that administrators made deals behind closed doors and refused to talk about any settlement. In the absence of full disclosure, they were left to draw conclusions based on media reports.

Nevertheless, several aspects of the incident bothered those faculty members, including whether Dr. Stubbs followed proper procedure in allowing Ms. Marsden to receive a “pass” in a course she did not complete.

The granting of a pass in an uncompleted course is usually reserved for students in tragic situations. If a student has done well throughout the year but does not complete the final exam, a pass would be considered. However, such a decision is usually not made by the school’s president.

Prof. Ballentine was disturbed by reports of a secret payment. He also said current policies are unfair to university faculty and staff members because an accuser has no risk and administrators do little to protect the reputation of those whose reputation is on the line.

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