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URSU announces sanctions

author: ethan williams & john loeppky| staff writer & editor-in-chief

Jermain McKenzie and  faced criticism after comments he made to students on social media. credit jaecy bells

This post is being continually updated as new information becomes available.

Executives face repercussions

On Mar. 6, the University of Regina Students’ Union posted a press release announcing sanctions against two of the executives. Though not named, the release seems to be in relation to Shawn Wiskar and Jermain McKenzie in regards to multiple Facebook posts, as first reported by staff writer Ethan Williams.

The statement reads as follows:

“It has come to the attention of the Board of Directors of the Students’ Union of the University of Regina Inc. (URSU) that on or around February 5th, 2018, two URSU Executive members made several social media posts (using their own social media platforms), that may have upset several of our members, members of other student associations as well as members of the general community. The Board in no way condones social media posts by its elected officials that are not in line with URSU’s mission, vision and core values. As such the Board instructed the URSU Board HR Committee to review the matter. The Committee found that the content of such posts violated various sections of several URSU governing documents, including but not limited to the URSU Constitution, the Executive Committee and Executive Roles Policy, the Standards of Conduct Policy and the Respectful University Policy of the University of Regina. Based on the findings of the HR Committee, the URSU Board administered appropriate disciplinary penalties and sanctions to both Executive members. In an effort to prevent such instances from occurring again and to improve the awareness of URSU’s elected officials of their fiduciary and professional responsibilities as representatives of URSU, the Board will be:

  • Implementing mandatory Respectful Workplace training for all URSU representatives and staff and,
    • Drafting and incorporating new policies and procedures with respect to proper use of social media.

The URSU Board of Directors respectfully apologizes to any student or community member that felt negatively affected by the conduct of individuals that was unbecoming of student leaders of URSU.”

The release references a number of social media posts previously reported on that involved the students union’s relationship to the Canadian Federation of Students. The next board meeting is Thursday, March 8 at 4:30 p.m. and it remains unclear as to whether further sanctions will arise.

Since the Facebook exchange at hand, McKenzie has posted on Facebook again, taking direct aim at URSU. In a post dated March 5, McKenzie highlighted a variety of injustices he felt had been perpetrated against him during his time at URSU. His post coincided with the opening of the campaigning period for this year’s election.

“Throughout the week I will be going public with all the things I have seen and experienced as URSU President. I will not be silent as I was too silent when a grave injustice was done to Maria Eritrea, during last year’s election. I have tried to express to her sincerely for the cowardice I displayed in her hour of need. However, I am determined to ensure that no future racialized student will be victimized by their students’ union!”

McKenzie also highlights the cost of the floors of the Owl during a renovation, challenges to a textbook program, and opposition to funding for students. In the above quote, McKenzie is referencing the removal of Maria Aman in last year’s election.

Wiskar’s response mirrored that of the press release.

“As VP of Student Affairs I would like to express my sincerest apologies for the social media conduct of some of the URSU execs including myself.”

McKenzie did respond, but his comments were unavailable as of press time.

We will post updates as they arise online at carillonregina.com

Update (Mar. 12):

When reached for comment Shawn Wiskar, acting as president in McKenzie’s forced absence, outlined in an email what sanctions were handed down.

“The sanction received by myself was to issue an apology to the other exec involved as well as work to draft a public statement that reflected my apology. I cannot elaborate on the specifics of the apology, but it was sincere and taken into consideration for the URSU public statement.”

He said that he did agree with the sanctions and that he was not backing away from the comments he made on social media.

“I agree the sanction is appropriate as I was misrepresenting URSU’s core values and principals in my social media conduct. This behaviour was wrong and for it, I apologize… I stand by the content of my comments but agree with the URSU board that it could have been handled in a better fashion. Students who had concerns about the relationship between the CFS and URSU could have been individually contacted. URSU could have released a public statement upon finding out about the financial contribution. Or we could have requested that the president not accept a financial contribution, rather than having myself use aggressive language towards him on social media.”

Wiskar also confirmed that there is no appeal process in regard to human resources complaints and that the changing of email access was done in accordance with the URSU constitution.

“As per the constitution, when the president is unable to fulfill their job duties the Vice-President of Student Affairs shall assume their job duties. In this instance, I have been answering these emails during the presidents leave, and they will be given account access back once they return. ”

Wiskar closed by saying that he felt that the incident does not reflect well on the organization.

“I think that this incident is an embarrassing moment for URSU. Exec’s shouldn’t be fighting on social media and especially not with other students. I hope this can serve as a teachable moment for the current exec, but also all election hopefuls.”

 

Update (Mar. 8):

The Carillon also spoke with URSU President Jermain McKenzie. McKenzie outlined the punishment he was given as a result of the ruling.

“One week suspension without pay. The other sanction was they [URSU] asked me to make a formal apology, then they said they would be making a public statement about the sanctions. I think if I’m remembering correctly those were the three things that came down.”

He went on to note that the suspension would run from the March 4 to the 10. He added that it wasn’t made clear to him if the suspension meant a full stop on his duties as President, because he has many roles outside of the office. He did, however, notice that his password for his URSU email account had been changed.

“I had some meetings that were scheduled for this week, so I wanted to check in on those, and I realized my password had changed. I have some issues with that in terms of privacy. I don’t know if my emails have been read and obviously I’m not going to speculate whether or not that was done, but I find it rather troubling that my password was changed.”

He said the only person who would have access to change the password would be the URSU General Manager, Carl Flis.

“I don’t know what made him feel he had the right to change my email password but as I said, personally I am troubled by that.”

Asked if he agreed with the sanctions, McKenzie said he is not on board with them.

 

“I told the committee that I respectfully disagree with everything they are asking me to do. I do not believe any of the sanctions were justified.”

He claimed that the Human Resources Committee asked him to address the concerns about his behaviour personally, however he was out of town at the time that was requested. He says the committee gave him questions about the situation, but he says the accusations made against him in the questions were not clear.

“As to precisely what they [the accusations] are, I was not made privy to that, which I also find troubling. I made the committee aware that I cannot see how this process allows for real justice to be served, when you are not afforded the proper ability to defend yourself against whatever accusations have been made against you.”

McKenzie said he would not appeal the decision. The main reasons being that there is no appeal process, and he says even if there was one in place, he would be appealing to the same people who placed the sanctions on him. McKenzie argued a third party investigation into his conduct would have served the process better.

“I also said to the committee that given all of the conflicts within different relationships with the people making this decision, that it would have been prudent for them to look at inviting in a third party to look at the issue in a very holistic fashion and hear my side of the story as to what might have caused me to [say] what I did.”

 

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