A letter to the editor in the Martlet first published online Feb. 6 about the women’s rowing program contains several inaccuracies and assertions that are important to address.
First and foremost, the Vikes and the university in no way condone behaviour by coaches or any other employee that is harassment, discrimination or abuse of students.
The university took the complaints about the 2018-19 season seriously and has provided support for the student athletes who raised the concerns throughout the process and afterwards.
When there are allegations of behaviour contrary to the university’s policies, there are impartial and independent processes in place for resolution and accountability.
Confidentiality is widely considered an integral part of a fair and judicious process, and is essential to the proper functioning of the policy and procedures. The university also has a legal duty to comply with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
If people breach that confidentiality, the university must still legally abide by confidentiality provisions. The limited ability of the university to provide information publicly about the allegations, how they were dealt with, and outcomes of an external investigation has been inaccurately portrayed by some people as hiding the truth or supporting a culture of abusive coaching behaviour. This is simply not the case.
The complaints were investigated by an independent investigator and when appealed, reviewed by an external adjudicator with a relevant legal and sports background.
As a university absolutely dedicated to providing a safe sports environment for its varsity athletes, the importance of addressing this situation and making improvements was always a priority.
It is incorrect to say that the program and coaching have not changed since the 2018-19 season and that there has been a lack of action by the university. Improvements are evident and will continue.
Even before the independent investigation was concluded in November 2019, the university started several important initiatives and we expect them to be in place for the 2020-21 season.
These initiatives include:
- A new senior leadership position in Vikes Athletics and Recreation to provide oversight and accountability of the varsity high-performance sport program at UVic, with a clear focus on safe sport and the specific needs of high-performance athletes.
- A new Student Outreach and Support Coordinator position to enhance the success and retention of student athletes by providing advice and options related to emotional, social, behavioral and other non-academic concerns.
- A new student-athlete advisory committee comprised of senior varsity athletes to provide advice to Vikes leadership on advancing the culture of excellence associated with varsity athletics and the student-athlete experience.
- Improvements to how Vikes receive a disclosure or complaint from students or employees and when to take action or make referrals.
Also, a Professional Code for Coaches outlining a coach’s expectations is being drafted following extensive research. The code will correspond with the Canadian sport environment and UVic’s collective agreements, employee standards and policies.
Campus-wide consultation on the policy will be held in the next month and the policy is expected to take effect for the 2020-21 season and going forward.
As I have stated earlier, these important investments in resources, supports, and leadership positions will better support our program and cultural goals of allowing athletes and coaches to aspire to the highest levels of national and international sport standards in a safe environment.