By Hamida Ghafour
The campus harassment officer lost her job after the university decided to restructure her office – a move that has infuriated campus groups.
Wendy Roberts, manager for the past eight years of discrimination and harassment prevention services, was let go Aug. 16. Her job has been combined with another to create the position of investigation officer and manager of harassment prevention offices.Linda Ackroyd has been hired to fill the new position.
Linda Grayson, v.p. administration and student affairs said it’s because there was simply not enough work for Roberts.
But members of an ad hoc committee – made up of the RyeSAC, CESAR, the RFA, OPSEU and CUPE – are angry because they weren’t consulted about the restructuring. They have tacked up tongue-in-cheek “missing person” posters all over campus that praise Roberts for her hard work.
OPSEU Local 596 president Stephanie Blake said the posters are intended to let students and faculty know a valuble person on campus is missing. Roberts’ job was not protected by a union because she is management, but the groups are calling for her reinstallment. They also want the harassment office to be seperate from the university’s jurisdiction.
Blake, who represents 560 support staff on campus, called Roberts’ dismissal “unfair” and “unjust.” She accused the university of wanting an officer who wont stir the pot.
“I hink they want a yes person in the office,” said Blake. “I think Wendy was always in a battle with administration with those [harassment] files. That is the only thing I can think of.”
Around 200 people come into the office for advice each year, Blake said. This would make it impossible for one person to do the job, she added. Amalgamating two jobs also means there is one less person to educate students on campus about harassment issues, she said.
Grayson defends her assertion that Roberts didn’t have neough work. Last year, there were three formal complaints filed in the office, she said.
A formal complaint is filed by students or faculty means a full-scale investigation is launched, whereas an informal complaint means the office tried to mediate a solution.
Blake said part of the problem is that Roberts reported to the administration. That should be changed, she said, so students feel comfortable knowing the harassment officer is independent.
But Grason said it’s part of the university’s mandate to stamp out discrimination and harassment – and Roberts’ dismissal was a a private matter between her and administration.
“You can’t consult about people’s positions,” she said.
The ad hoc committee is not buying that.
RyeSAC president Erin George said the harassment office was created by the Ryerson community and that makes it iportant for the administration to consult them if there are an changes in the office.
“Our concern is there has been no information released to the public and no consultation,” George said. “[Roberts] is also very porfessional and very knowledgable and very thorough with student issues.”
The harassment office was created after a violent rape of an employee in one of the women’s bathrooms 10 years ago. Several campus organizations came together and pressured the administration to open an office where people could file complaints.
Coincidentally, the harassment officer before Roberts, Carolyn MacLeod, was fired in murky circumstances in 1991.
In that case, the administration refused to say why she was fired. MacLeod launched a wrongful dismissal suit, which prompted a boycott of the harassment office by the Women’s Centre.