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

Campus News

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.