In a bid to address concerns related to harassment and discrimination, the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) has released an independent external third-party review report conducted by Rubin Thomlinson LLP.
The report sheds light on the university’s workplace policies and practices while also investigating allegations surrounding the former president.
“What we heard during our review was troubling,” the report states in its final comments section, signed by Janice Rubin, Heather Shields and Katharine Montpetit for Rubin Thomlinson LLP. “While the information we gathered about participants’ experiences did have some positive elements, an overwhelming number of survey participants made comments to the effect that UPEI has a toxic and/or bullying environment.”
That included descriptions of frequent racist, sexist, ableist and heteronormative behaviours, it said. It also noted there was a sense that the most senior levels of leadership at the university were “more interested in protecting themselves and the University’s reputation, than taking accountability for and addressing these concerns.”
The UPEI Board of Governors approved the Terms of Reference for the review on Jan. 28, 2022. It called for a comprehensive examination of the university’s culture among faculty, staff, and students, encompassing surveys and interviews conducted primarily in early to mid-2022.
Although the report does not provide specific dates for the incidents mentioned, it raises concerns about the need for improved policies and procedures regarding harassment, discrimination, and unfair treatment.
Following the completion of the review, the University’s legal counsel received the report on June 5, 2023, and subsequently provided it to the University the following day. An independent legal team carefully reviewed and made redactions to ensure compliance with confidentiality and privacy legal requirements.
The final redacted report, known as the “University of Prince Edward Island Review,” was shared with the UPEI campus community on June 14, 2023, in a joint message from the Chair of the UPEI Board of Governors and the interim President and Vice-Chancellor.
Expressing regret for any past failures to uphold its values, UPEI reaffirmed its zero-tolerance stance against behaviors and actions inconsistent with their principles. The University acknowledged the necessity to create a safe, respectful, and positive environment for all members of the UPEI community.
The “University of Prince Edward Island Review” provides valuable recommendations to strengthen the University’s practices and policies, as well as address any existing shortcomings. The UPEI Board of Governors and the current University leadership express gratitude for these recommendations and commit to reviewing them thoroughly, with a focus on aligning actions with their intended purpose.
Notably, many of the recommendations correspond to areas where progress has been made in the past 18 months, including equity, diversity, inclusion, and sexual violence prevention and response, it said. The University said it is dedicated to ongoing improvement and pledges to continue advancing its strategic priorities.