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A retired University of Manitoba music professor who was accused of sexual assault, bullying and harassment has won a payout from his former employer.
Steve Kirby filed a union grievance against the U of M five months after he left his tenured position in June 2017. Details of his grievance haven’t been publicly released, but he claimed the university violated his privacy – and an arbitrator agreed.
In an Aug. 5 decision, labour arbitrator Arne Peltz ruled Kirby was entitled to $286,000 in damages from the U of M. In his decision, which followed two days of confidential mediation between both parties, Peltz wrote he was prepared to order Kirby be re-instated to his U of M job, but that Kirby declined.
The decision states the university and Kirby "remain bound to adhere to confidentiality going forward." U of M spokesman John Danakas referenced that part of the arbitrator’s ruling in declining to comment Thursday.
Kirby couldn’t be reached, and the University of Manitoba Faculty Association didn’t respond to requests for comment on the arbitrator’s decision. The Free Press also reached out to lawyers who handled the case on both sides, but did not receive any response.
Kirby retired around the same time a woman went to police claiming Kirby sexually assaulted her while she was his 19-year-old student beginning in 2014. He was arrested and charged in June 2018, and less than a year later the criminal charge was stayed – dropped after reviewing the case and considering "the views of the complainant," the Crown prosecutor said at the time.
The University of Manitoba conducted an internal investigation into Kirby’s behaviour after students reported experiencing harassment and bullying from the acclaimed jazz musician, and found the allegations had merit.
University president David Barnard later apologized publicly to any student who had experienced "such inappropriate behaviour," referring in general to allegations of sexual harassment or assault without specifically mentioning Kirby.
Barnard also expressed regret about a letter of employment the U of M issued to Kirby after he left his job. The letter "included an outline of activities and achievements, that, though factual, could be construed as supportive. The inclusion of this material was a mistake that must not be repeated," Barnard said in September 2018.
Kirby, now 64, was fired from his subsequent position at Boston’s Berklee College of Music after the allegations against him came to light.
News of those allegations against Kirby prompted the U of M to publicly announce that five other faculty members were also being investigated for misconduct, and forced the university to grapple with its own response to reports of misconduct and sexual violence on campus. In September 2019, U of M announced it would set up a sexual-violence resource centre and ban intimate relationships between students and staff.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.
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