Five years after a scandal at Brandon University prompted the school to create a sexualized violence policy and hire an expert to implement it, senior employees overlooked both when they undertook an investigation into recent allegations of sexual misconduct.

Five years after a scandal at Brandon University prompted the school to create a sexualized violence policy and hire an expert to implement it, senior employees overlooked both when they undertook an investigation into recent allegations of sexual misconduct.

The athletic director, human resources head, and human rights adviser all failed to immediately connect a student who filed a complaint against the head coach of women’s soccer at BU with the co-ordinator who supports survivors of sexual violence.

Emails reviewed by the Free Press show the complainant and other women who became involved in a harassment investigation were only referred to the co-ordinator after an internal review was complete.

Per school policy, a community member who receives a disclosure of sexual misconduct must contact the individual who runs a designated education and prevention office "as soon as possible" to develop a co-ordinated response.

The first athlete made an initial report Nov. 17, 2020. She was introduced to the co-ordinator, who is both an advocate and educator, via email May 5.

"Either they ignored sexualized violence or they misrecognized it, and both are huge issues," said Corinne Mason, an associate professor of gender and women’s studies in Brandon.

It proves there is no real commitment to addressing sexualized violence in a survivor-centred way until it becomes "a reputational scandal," said the BU employee.

Mason publicly condemned BU in 2016, when it was revealed the school was silencing students with non-disclosure agreements.

The university made headlines in April 2016, when a student came forward about her experience reporting a sexual assault on campus and being given an ultimatum: sign away the ability to discuss the case with anyone but a counsellor or risk being expelled.

Under then-president Gervan Fearon’s leadership, BU responded to widespread criticism by discontinuing the use of "behavioural contracts," approving a policy to address sexual violence in 2017, and hiring both a human rights adviser and expert in sexual violence education.

Carla Navid was appointed co-ordinator of the sexual violence office, a position created to support survivors navigating reporting options and ensure they have information necessary "to decide next best steps in their healing."

Citing a non-disclosure agreement she has signed, Navid declined multiple requests for comment this week.

Throughout the 2020-21 academic year, a handful of students disclosed allegations against soccer coach Jesse Roziere, 29, who was put on leave after the Free Press reached out to BU this week. Three students, who are in their early 20s, told the Free Press the coach made sexual advances on players, partied with his team and sent suggestive messages — and his behaviour led them to quit the soccer team.

The initial complainant and another teammate, one of a handful of students who became involved in the investigation, say they were provided with the results of a school review May 4: Roziere acted inappropriately and would be monitored.

The next day, after a parent contacted the school about the limited recourse, they say they were connected with Navid.

BU has said it is confident its investigation "was conducted appropriately using the policy pathway that was chosen by the survivors."

University communications director Grant Hamilton said Wednesday his understanding is the complainants were given the "full suite of options" available when it came to next steps.

The students’ accounts, as well as email exchanges, counter that narrative.

"They actively tried to sweep this under the rug. They hid resources from us. They didn’t tell us our options," said Lauren Craig, a fourth-year student who is among the athletes who disclosed concerns.

On Jan. 20, the human rights adviser emailed the initial complainant to introduce herself and apologize for the time it took to respond.

"Your concerns definitely meet the threshold for the discrimination and harassment policy," wrote Cheryl Fleming, who oversees diversity and human rights complaints at BU.

In a followup email Feb. 2, Fleming informed the student about two options: file a formal harassment complaint or pursue "conflict meditation."

Fleming, Kristen Fisher, acting chief human resources officer, and athletic director Russ Paddock did not respond to requests for comment. Neither has Roziere.

Hamilton said in an email Wednesday he was aware a reporter contacted several individuals and BU would be providing a single, unified statement.

The statement indicates the school has engaged a third-party investigator who will look into all allegations, while it continues to offer those involved with the supports they need.

On Aug. 30, BU initially declined a new investigation under its sexualized violence policy, which the complainants requested in the spring.

Noting new information was brought to light by the Free Press, BU announced Tuesday it would be conducting an external review. It has declined to provide details on its new learnings.

The complainants say they disclosed everything to the school, and were frustrated to learn of a new investigation via a reporter rather than BU. In a joint statement Wednesday, five former players said the school continues to fail them on a "multitude of levels."

"It is not our responsibility nor our job to review every policy or pick a policy. That is the job of the people who failed to protect us," they wrote.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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