The Board’s Involvement

The Board’s Involvement

Although the Board was not asked to get involved, the Board Chair and Vice-Chair took action. They ask the student to meet with them and scheduled a meeting after that with me. My sense at the time (clearly a mistaken sense in light of what followed) was that the Board wanted to smooth over the matter and do the right thing for the student. My comments that follow stem from the student’s written report of her meeting with senior members of the Board and from recollections of my own meeting with these Board members.

The “Witch-Hunt”

The student met with the Board Chair and Vice-Chair. The student has described the Board’s behaviour in that meeting as a “witch-hunt, in an attempt to place blame on Dr Robinson.” According to the student, the Board Chair and Vice-Chair tried to get her to say that I had manipulated her to make an issue of the matter. The student repeatedly pointed out to them that the claims they were making about me were not true.

They further claimed, according to the student, that I had an agenda of my own, that I had derailed the process by going to the President, and that I had conducted myself improperly as a Board Member.

The Vice-Chair used an illustration to demonstrate how I had compromised the matter. He said that his wife was a Master’s student at the University and that it would be inappropriate for him, as a Board member, to approach her professor to gain some favour. My action, in approaching the President on behalf of a student, was of similar kind, he asserted. The Vice-Chair later made the same comparison in his meeting with me.

False or Uninformed Charges by the Board

Several false or uninformed statements were made about me by the leadership of the Board to the student.

(1) That I had manipulated the student. The Board asserted this prior to meeting with me and prior to having the student’s story. According to the student, the Board repeatedly tried to sell that line to her, which she consistently rejected.

(2) That I had violated the code of conduct by taking the matter to the President. The student was told, as was I in my meeting with the Board Chair and Vice-Chair, that I should have brought the matter to the Board Chair, not to the President. The code of conduct of Board members asserts the contrary, however. Section 9.0 of the Code of Conduct and Ethics for the Board of Governors states: “In circumstances where a Governor suspects conduct that contravenes policy or good conduct, a Governor has an obligation to report the conduct to the Board Chair, President, or Audit Committee Chair.” In that this was an academic matter, the President would be the natural person to approach. Further, since I was acting as a faculty member when I went to the President (as the President himself recognized), my conduct is to be judged by the Faculty Handbook, which states (11.01.3): “The Board and the Association recognize Members’ rights and duties associated with academic freedom, in particular, freedom to form ideas, discuss ideas, publish ideas, and teach ideas which challenge opinions regarding academic, administrative and all other matters.”

(3) That there was something unethical in my conduct, comparable to a board member attempting to get favours for his wife from her professor. Since I had no relationship with the student other than a professional relationship as a professor, the comparison drawn by the Vice-Chair at least indirectly suggested an inappropriate relationship, which the Vice-Chair should have known to be untrue.

QUESTIONS: Is it the routine practice of the University of Lethbridge administration and Board to make allegations about an individual before speaking with the individual? Or are witch-hunts the order of the day when criticism is made of the administration? And are conclusions reached and judgments made prior to an examination of the evidence and prior to hearing the testimony from witnesses? And why would the student be told not to talk about the matter by the Board Chair and Vice-Chair? Was there an attempt to prevent me from becoming aware of the allegations the Board leadership was making against me although they had not yet done an investigation to establish the facts?

— Tom Robinson

The University of Lethbridge


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