Queen’s staff member accused of sexual harassment returns to campus

Survivor speaks up about experience in hopes to protect others

“It put a permanent stain on my Queen’s experience.”

This article discusses sexual harassment and may be triggering for some readers. The Journal uses “survivor” to refer to those who have experienced sexual assault. We acknowledge this term is not universal. The Kingston Sexual Assault Centre’s 24-hour crisis and support phone line can be reached at 613-544-6424 / 1-800-544-6424.

Queen’s BFA student Mary*, whose name has been protected for personal safety, is concerned the staff member who allegedly sexually harassed her is returning to campus after she graduates in May.

Mary was at a basketball game with her family on Nov. 4, 2022, when she received inappropriate texts from Queen’s staff member Ryan Laidman, the print and sculpture technician for the BFA program. He assisted students with projects and provided them with the necessary materials.

In the texts, Laidman asked Mary to send him pictures of her wearing her Halloween costume, with Halloween having occurred only days prior.

“But if there is anything you want to share, I would appreciate it, I am a fan,” Laidman said in texts obtained by The Journal.

Laidman asked Mary to let him know if she ever wanted to “hang out and have a good time.”

“He made it known right away that he had been drinking,” Mary said in an interview with The Journal. “I think he sent me a total of 11 messages after that [apologizing] up until the next day, until two o'clock in the morning.”

Mary said she stopped responding to Laidman after he asked her to send him pictures of herself. Laidman did not respond to The Journal’s request for comment.

According to Mary, Laidman got her number from another student in the program—without her permission—under the guise of wanting to prank Mary. The incident with the texts “changed everything” for Mary.

“I completely shut down. It affected my social life, it affected my ability to focus on my schoolwork, to study. It affected my ability to create art. I completely stopped. I couldn't wrap my head around my creative process anymore,” Mary said.

Mary reported the incident to her advisor, who then brought it to Warren Mabee, interim director and associate dean (fine arts), in November.

Mary was surprised to learn, in an email sent to her on Jan. 20, that Laidman would be returning to Ontario Hall to resume his position in-person after having been re-assigned to “remote duties.”

“As a result of his noncompliance with [the University’s Policy on Sexual Violence Involving Queen's University Students], Ryan has received a one-day suspension, and is expected to undertake training through the University,” Mabee said in an email to Mary on Jan. 20.

“Ryan will be reassigned to remote duties until the end of term, and as such will not return to Ontario Hall until May. He will not have contact with students in the program during this period. This measure is taken to prevent the day-to-day interaction between you and Ryan [Laidman] in the studio space and support a more comfortable environment for you.”

In response to the incident, the University connected Mary with Barb Lotan, sexual violence prevention and response coordinator, and Queen’s Student Wellness Services for counselling.

“They always offer Queen’s counselling, which I think is awesome and they should do that, but at the same time, I don't need counselling. I just would like them to handle the situation properly,” Mary said.

For privacy reasons, the University did not provide a statement specific to the harassment allegations brought against Laidman.

“The University takes any allegations of sexual misconduct at Queen’s very seriously.  We have an established procedure to report and respond to incidents of harassment and sexual violence,” the University said in a statement to The Journal.

Mary decided to go public with her story because she’s concerned for other female students in her program who will have contact with Laidman after she graduates.

According to Mary, another student came to her with claims Laidman had texted her flirtatiously but was hesitant to report the incident to the University.

“[The email], to me, screamed that [the University] prioritized the person who, in my opinion, doesn’t necessarily deserve protection, over the well-being and the safety of their young female students,” Mary said.

Despite feeling powerful after initially reporting the incident, Mary’s entire outlook changed after finding out Laidman is returning to Queen’s.

“Never in my wildest nightmares did I think that this would happen to me at Queen’s University. Not with an employee; not in my program, which I've always been so fond of. Not when I'm supposed to flourish as an artist and look forward to my show,” Mary said.

“It's something I can't just erase and forget about, especially because the outcome isn't something that made me feel heard.”

*Name changed for safety reasons

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