“Damaging & complex”: Senate discusses recent track coach firing

Patrick Deane and Tom Harris field questions about former track coach Steve Boyd 

(Left) Senator Diane Beauchemin at February's Senate meeting.
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At a Senate meeting on Feb. 25, Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Tom Harris fielded questions about recently-fired track coach Steve Boyd from Senator Diane Beauchemin, who asked Harris to elaborate on the reasons for Boyd’s dismissal. 
 
“It has been suggested that Steven Boyd was dismissed because of his criticism of Guelph University’s handling of allegations of abuse. This is simply not the case,” Harris said. “Mr. Boyd left online comments, over a number of years that bullied many in the running community. Recently, Mr. Boyd also left online comments that shamed former Guelph student athletes for their silence.”
 
Harris said that the University approached Boyd about these comments, and he was “unwilling and unable to change his behaviour.” For this reason, Harris said the University was compelled to fire him.
 
Beauchemin responded by referencing a student petition to have Boyd reinstated. “If he’s a bully, why would students want him back?”
 
Senator Jordan Morelli agreed with some of Beauchemin’s concerns. “To me, this doesn’t pass the sniff test. It seems like there’s something else behind the scenes,” he said. 
 
Morelli went on to say he has read some of the online comments referenced by Harris. “I don’t personally feel that they rose to the level of bullying. I’m concerned we might be seen to be disciplining somebody for participating in a dialogue on issues of sexual harassment and violence,” he said. “We really need to be careful about this. We need to be facilitating these conversations, even when they’re difficult.”
 
Morelli expressed worries about the wider effects Boyd’s firing may have at Queen’s. “I’m really concerned about what chilling effect this might have on others coming forward within our community who either have experienced or witnessed sexual violence.”
 
Principal Patrick Deane responded by agreeing that Morelli’s concerns were valid. “It’s caused great regret in this instance that [Boyd’s] behaviour has coincided with an obscuring of the major issues,” he said. “The way [Boyd] has spun the story has proven to be quite damaging and complex for the University.”
 
Senate also held a moment of silence for fifth-year ConEd student Bethany Qun Yi Yan, who passed away last month, and passed major modifications to three graduate degree programs.
 
Senate discussed a recent report about Undergraduate Orientation Week, submitted to the body by the Senate Orientation Activities Review Board (SOARB). 
 
The report outlined six directives, including the banning of standards exams from Orientation, mandatory equity hiring training for student hiring panels related to Orientation positions, more comprehensive risk assessment protocol, further financial oversight and centralization of Orientation finances, and the integration of leadership fees into oversight mechanisms for first-year fees. The SOARB report was sent back to have a review of the recommendation to ban Standards Exams.
 
Senators also discussed how certain Orientation Week events are anxiety-inducing for students. 
 
They debated whether events that are popular, but may be stressful for some students, should remain on the Orientation Week calendar. This led to a wider conversation about the balance between providing engaging Orientation Week programming and ensuring that events do not have a negative impact on first-year students’ mental health. 
 
Discussion focused specifically on Engineering and Applied Science Orientation Week, which has a standards exam for first-year students, although senators acknowledged there has been decreasing student engagement in Orientation Weeks across campus.
 
Deane also reported on the Draft Campus Wellbeing Framework, which was released this month. More than 1,800 Queen’s community members participated in consultations that were drafted into the Framework. Deane encouraged the community to leave comments or questions on an online form that will be available until May 1. The comments received will be integrated into a further draft.
 
Deane also mentioned that this Friday marks Harris’ final day as interim provost. 
 
In his report, Harris announced that Jane Philpott, who served as minister of health from 2015 to 2017, has accepted the position of the dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences. She will serve a five-year term. 
 
Another new appointment is that of Cynthia Gibney, who will assume the position of executive director of Student Wellness Services, as of March 2, 2020. Gibney is currently the director of Health and Wellness at the University of Western Ontario.
 
Harris also spoke to the end of his term as interim provost and vice-principal (Academic). He said he is working with Mark Green, who will take over the position, to ensure the transition goes smoothly.
 
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Corrections

This story has been updated to add the information that the SOARB report was sent back to have a review of the recommendation to ban Standards Exams. 

The Journal regrets the error.

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