Statement from the Chair of the UPEI Board of Governors

| University
photo of red brick building on UPEI campus

UPDATE: The following statement was sent by email to students, staff, and faculty on behalf of the Chair of the UPEI Board of Governors on Thursday, August 10, 2023. After the statement was issued, Dr. Carroll and Ms. Casey sent a response to the Chair. They have given the University permission to share it on and via this link:

Statement from Shannon MacDonald, Chair, UPEI Board of Governors: 

It’s been nearly two months since the University of Prince Edward Island received the final report of Rubin Thomlinson, a Canadian law firm with leading expertise in workplace investigations. They were hired by the UPEI Board of Governors to conduct an independent investigation of the allegations of workplace misconduct against the University’s former president and vice-chancellor. We also asked them to undertake a comprehensive review of the University’s policies, programs, and procedures concerning harassment, discrimination, and fair treatment.

In receiving the report, the Board fully accepted it and committed, unreservedly, to following every single recommendation, all of which are remedies intended to bring about change and improve our University community.

One of the ways that the University has accepted accountability since the release of the Rubin Thomlinson report has been by making amends to those who have been harmed. A conversation that has been particularly impactful to the University and the Board is one we are having with two complainants—Dr. Wendy Carroll and Ms. Erin Casey, both of whom have asked that we share their names—who brought forward allegations of sexual harassment in 2012–2013 against the former President. Eventually, they took those complaints to the PEI Human Rights Commission before reaching an agreement to settle their complaints, which required their signing of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs).

For its part, the University has now provided Erin and Wendy with permanent release from their NDAs. The University will not prevent them from having their voices heard and from sharing their stories, should they so choose. We believe that not only is this the right thing to do, it is also in keeping with the intent of Prince Edward Island’s new Non-Disclosure Agreements Act. 

We are grateful that Erin and Wendy have reached out to us and agreed to meet with me as Chair of the Board of Governors, along with the University’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Officer. I have listened to them talk about their journey over the past 10 years. We deeply regret the impact that the University’s response had on their personal and professional lives. We are sorry.

There have also been changes in leadership on the Board, through my appointment as Chair, and a change in the University leadership with the creation of a new vice-president role responsible for People and Culture, as first steps in developing a new organizational structure for the University. An action plan is in development, based on the report’s recommendations, and its process will be transparent and accountable. The Board is also on a path to refresh and renew, with a stronger focus on improved governance.

We have been engaging in open town-hall sessions and in many individual conversations. We are very grateful to those who participated in the Rubin Thomlinson investigation, and to the people with whom we have been engaged since the report’s release.  

The report laid bare some very difficult truths about our past and present:

“In summary, we found that the University has failed to create a safe, respectful, and positive environment for working and learning for all members of its community, and, assuming that what we were told is true, the University has not lived up to its stated values of ‘inclusion, equity, and reconciliation,’ and more specifically, its commitment to ‘fair treatment’ and ‘respectful relationships’.”

We are truly sorry that the University and the Board failed to live up to our values when it comes to harassment and equality. We apologize for our past failures to meet the expectations of the UPEI community. We must do better, and we will. We will continue to work hard to create a safe, respectful, and positive environment for all members of the UPEI community.  

One of the recommendations from the Rubin Thomlinson report was to create a culture of listening and we are committed to hearing the perspectives of Erin and Wendy and to learning about what they experienced and ways we can improve. Together, we have begun a process of reconciliation. We hope that this is a restorative path for them, and for the University community, as we work towards healing.  

We have much trust to earn, and we are at the beginning of that process. We want to take the time and do this right. We know we can learn and improve through this restorative process, and we believe that they, along with others, can provide guidance so that something like this cannot easily, if ever, happen again to anyone at UPEI. We also have an opportunity to be a model for other institutions as they review their internal practices and policies. We look forward to working with them and our entire University community to help build a better future for UPEI.  

Media Contact

Nicole Phillips
Director of Communications and University Relations
Marketing and Communications

Relevant Links