AMS terminates Social Issues Commissioner

‘It's easier for them to exist in the patriarchal white supremacist society’

The AMS said they strive for an inclusive, safe, and respectful workplace.
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The AMS terminated the 2022-23 AMS Social Issues Commissioner (SIC) leading into the Canada Day long weekend. 

In an interview with The Journal, the former SIC detailed a termination she believes wasn’t conducted equitably, with due process, or in consideration of her positionality. She described the investigation as “comically short.”

She said she’s the second Black AMS manager to be fired under the tenure of ETC, the current AMS executive.

“The AMS does this,” she said. “It's a pattern, and yeah, it feels like there's no hope because the one person who is advocating for equity was fired for reasons that feel very inequitable.”

The former SIC entered her role after three years of involvement with equity-based organizations on campus. She described working with other current commissioners and AMS senior managers on the service side as what made her job great. 

“I love all of them. I think they’re great at their jobs and we got along well and that made it easier to do my job because I felt supported by them.” 

She said during her short tenure at the AMS, she was never approached by anybody about performance issues. She said her direct reports and supervisor, Callum Robertson, vice-president (university affairs) gave nothing but positive feedback. 

“I was called into a run of the mill meeting with Callum, my direct supervisor. He didn't say anything about [possible termination]—it just seemed like a check-in meeting before the long weekend,” the former SIC said. 

“As soon as I joined the meeting, [Robertson] said I was under investigation, and he was calling in Ian Trew who is the HR director. Chloë, who is the student HR Manager—also a woman of colour—knew nothing about this.”

The former SIC said she knew nothing about the investigation while it was happening.

According to her, she was asked during the meeting about a conversation she had with Eric Sikich, AMS president, about the de-naming of the Wallace Room in the new JDUC. 

“I just said, if we're not able to de-name the [Wallace] room for whatever reason […] I’m going to go to The Journal and talk to them because it's problematic,” she said. “They had an issue with me saying that, even though I wasn’t threatening him.” 

The former SIC’s concerns surrounding an AMS staff member were also brought up in the meeting. The former SIC said she spoke to the staff member about making a pride post for their organization, but they “[weren’t] the most receptive to it.”

After the meeting with Robertson and Trew, the former SIC was told not to go to any task force meetings—including the Scarborough Charter meeting that discusses anti-Black racism. 

“The next morning at 9 a.m., I came in, and Callum walked me into Lyn Parry’s [AMS General Manager] office where they fired me. When I asked for a reason why, they didn't give me one. They said there were some concerns, and that it's pretty much all confidential,” she said. 

She said she advocated for herself during the meeting and brought up concerns with the way the situation was handled. 

“I said, ‘Ian, Callum, and Lyn all have something in common, which is that they are white.’ I said, ‘Do you really think there was an advocate, a true advocate for me?’”

The former SIC said she had a good working relationship with Robertson and a friendship outside of work. She recalled Parry saying “[Roberston] can’t help you now,” when the commissioner looked at Robertson during the meeting.

“Lyn Parry just read off a script, which was very frustrating, to be honest […] The other thing Lyn said was that I wasn’t a ‘good fit’ which is the most vague statement.”

The former SIC said Lyn Parry told her to collect her things and asked for her keys, and then walked her out of the AMS office building, which “felt very demoralizing.”

She added Pary cut her off, and pushed a paper towards her to sign before she was ready to go.

“She handed me a pen [...] I was still trying to advocate for myself, and [Lyn] cut me off. She's like, ‘you're going in circles, you just need to sign the paper […] At that point it felt like there was nothing I could do but just sign it and leave, so I did.” 

The former SIC said her experience checks out with those of three female AMS senior managers of colour during RTZ’s tenure in the 2021-22 academic year. 

“I spoke to […] one of the three women of colour that quit last year and heard her experience and read her exit letter. I read the other one’s statement that she posted on Facebook, and it checks out.” 

ETC discussed the Social Issues Commission’s need to receive more autonomy during their election campaign. The former SIC disagrees this is ETC’s goal. 

“I don't think they want the SIC to be more autonomous,” she said. “My direct supervisor was Callum, a straight white man. When you're being managed by people who don't have equity in mind, your work is limited.” 

In the end, the former SIC said the students lost a voice for equity at the AMS.

She highlighted how there isn’t anyone at the AMS to speak to about equity issues except for Trew, who she said isn’t approachable on the subject matter.

“I feel like I was fired was because I was asking for change that they don't want to see happen. It's easier for them to exist in the patriarchal white supremacist society and the organization that exists right now,” she said.

In a statement to The Journal, ETC said— in collaboration with the Chair of the AMS Board of Directors—the AMS proactively attempts to address all matters of harassment, discrimination, and violence, and that AMS policies follow the Ontario Human Rights Code.

“The AMS strongly believes in policies that support and protect the safety and equitable treatment of its employees,” ETC said. “[AMS Board of Director Review] ensures these policies maintain the integrity and accountability of our organization and legislative standards.”

ETC declined to comment on the specifics of the termination.

“Matters related to specific employees and their employment relationship with the AMS are subject to privacy and are strictly confidential between the AMS and its employees,” ETC said. 

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