UPDATED: Candidate accused of racism; accuser’s legitimacy questioned

A Unite UVic candidate has been accused of racism after screenshots surfaced Monday showing a conversation that allegedly took place between the candidate and a UVic student, though evidence suggests that the entire exchange was fabricated.

At 2:31 a.m. this morning, the Martlet received screenshots of a Facebook conversation that allegedly took place on Friday evening between Brontë Renwick-Shields, who is currently running for re-election as Director of Outreach and University Relations, and a UVic student who has requested to remain anonymous.

According to the screenshots, the student originally wrote to Renwick-Shields in the afternoon on Friday, Feb. 26, asking how Unite would work to erase racism on campus. The student says they’ve been subject to “racist innuendos and comments both on campus and on transit leaving from the university,” and asks Renwick-Shields directly about their plan to combat this sort of behaviour.  

The alleged conversation ends with Renwick-Shields dismissing the student’s concerns and accusing the student of harassment when they press Renwick-Shields for more information on Unite’s platform.

When presented with the conversation, Renwick-Shields was visibly distraught and denied ever having the interaction, claiming the screenshots had been fabricated.

In a statement to the Martlet, Unite UVic Campaign Manager Kaylee Szakacs reiterated that the pictures were fake. The full statement reads:

Unite UVic has seen these pictures and is outraged that somebody would do this. These pictures are completely fabricated. Brontë would never say any of the things she is alleged of saying. We acknowledge that racism is a serious issue on our campus and support all the folks actively resisting racism and doing anti-racist work. A report had been filed with Campus Security and legal council and the police are also involved in figuring this out.

The student involved would only provide screenshots of the conversation over email, and has not responded to requests for verifiable proof of the conversation. When asked if the screenshots had been sent to anyone else, the student said no, but also said they “understand this conversation [with Renwick-Shields] will likely be denied.”

Shortly after the request for proof was made, censored screenshots appeared on the UVic Students for Free Speech and Accountability Facebook page. They were then removed after the page administrators were informed by Szakacs that the images were fabricated.

UPDATE Mar. 1, 2016, 9:56 a.m.: Woke UVic has provided a statement to the Martlet:

Woke UVic is shocked and surprised at the recent allegations made against a member of the Unite UVic team, and believe it to be a gross fabrication. We are additionally frustrated by this act, as it not only co-opts conversations on anti-racism as a way to sway elections results, but also diminishes the real issues of racism on campus. Racism is not a joke. Racism is not an elections tool.

The second-year UVic student who contacted the Martlet yesterday morning has since deleted the Facebook page they had provided to verify their identity.

UPDATE Mar. 2, 11:13 a.m.: Encompass UVic has also provided a statement to the Martlet:

Encompass UVic is stunned by these allegations leveled against Brontë Renwick-Shields. Given the present evidence, Encompass believes this conversation was fabricated. This fraudulent attack on a candidate is disgusting, appalling, and undemocratic.  We sincerely hope that whoever fabricated this conversation is brought to justice. This attack on a candidate is a sickening attempt to disrepute Ms. Renwick-Shields. While we do not always agree with Ms. Renwick-Shields, Encompass stands by her and does not tolerate these vicious attacks.

Editor’s note: In the interests of minimizing further harm that publishing the alleged conversation could bring to Renwick-Shields, the Martlet has removed images that were previously included in this story. At the time of publication, we believed that including the conversation, the fabrication of which has not yet been conclusively proven, would provide further context to the story. This was also done to provide context that wasn’t provided when the images were shared on other social media channels. However, despite stressing the evidence suggesting the images were fabricated, their inclusion in the article overshadowed the objectivity of the story we were telling.

This investigation is ongoing. The Martlet will update this story as it develops.

9 Comments

Avatar Katherine

Bronte has a history of talking about challenging the oppression that exists on campus- she wouldn’t deny it’s existance.

The only slate who had no person speak to the realities of oppression and systematic violence is the same slate invested in making sure candidates on other slates look bad….

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who’s behind it.

You literally just have to create a profile with the proper name spelling and profile pic and then message yourself back and forth before snapping a screenshot and writing the martlet.

If this was real- the person would go down to the martlet, log in to their account, open the message, and then click on brontes name to show it links to her profile- no one is gonna do it cause it would prove the person faked it.

Its not rocket science, it’s just a cheap shot at a candidate using real issues students do experience with racism as ammo. That is beyond disgusting.

Shame on all those involved. If you can’t win without playing dirty, you should just walk away.

Avatar Breaking Kayfabe

Lets just hope those people “follow the stars” for directions and vote for the only slate that will be proactive in uniting Uvic.

Avatar Will Grey

Racism: the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

In the allegedly fabricated screen shots there are no instances of racism. All it shows is a Unite UVic candidate dismiss a students concerns after being pushed for a response – and doing it in a way that is somewhat vulgar and disrespectful. However, this doesn’t read as “Because you are a person of colour you are inferior” it reads as “I don’t want to deal with you, I don’t think this is an issue, [insert vulgarity]” albeit somewhat unprofessionally.

The closest thing to ‘racism’ is the comment about the “overly privileged white guys at encompass who don’t know ****” but thats more of “petty identity politics” and doesn’t suggest that because these guys are white they are inferior.

Why was this candidate accused of racism when the apparently fabricated photos only show the candidate being rude, dismissive, overly sensitive/defensive, unprofessional, and vulgar?

Avatar Vek

There are many apps that can produce a fake a conversation. Further, it seems highly suspect that Renwick-Shields would engage in a conversation with another student in this manner, it is so far outside of her character that it is obviously fraudulent. It is unfortunate that even campaigning at a student level we see such distateful tactics being used because others want to win at any cost. Personally I would recommend that these screenshots be sent onto judicial affairs and investigated thoroughly. If a student made these screenshots they could face expulsion based on UVic’s student code of conduct!

Avatar The Martlet

Hi Mike,

Your comment was pending approval, and has now being posted. We decided to screen all comments last year after numerous previous incidents where discussion became harmful and deconstructive.

As we are currently working on a policy that allows us to foster discussion while minimizing harm, we’re open to suggestions. If you have any concerns or ideas how the Martlet could handle comments in the future, please don’t hesitate to email our editor-in-chief, Myles Sauer, at edit@martlet.ca. Thanks!

Avatar Mike

I think that these screenshots are most likely fake. Nobody who is running in an election would speak to a potential voter that way. Bronte would obviously be aware of the fact that her messages could be screencapped, it’s pretty doubtful that she would be this dismissive in regards to such a sensitive issue. I don’t know Bronte, but sometimes her posts show up in my newsfeed. The one thing I’ve noticed is that she always spells “folks” as “folx”. This stood out to me because I don’t understand why someone would spell it as “folx”, frankly it seems kind of stupid to me. However, in the screenshots Bronte is shown as spelling it “folks”, which is out of character for her and makes me more suspicious that they are fake.

Avatar Breaking Kayfabe

“This stood out to me because I don’t understand why someone would spell it as “folx”, frankly it seems kind of stupid to me.”

100%

Avatar Jake

Renwick-Shields has already been elected once – she’s not stupid. Although Unite’s platform says nothing about racism, no one in their right mind would say there are no problems with race at UVic: in this political climate, that’s suicide.

I wouldn’t call myself a Unite supporter, but this looks pretty fake. It’s disappointing to see how much mudslinging is going on in this election.

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