Brock University looks to the future after a year of struggle

Students in Schmon Tower / Rounaq Chabra

 

Brock University is finding its way back on the right path. After last year’s news in regards to an alleged incident of sexual harassment, broke by the CBC, it has seemed as if the wheels were falling off at Brock, as other incidents have followed.

Brock was back in national headlines  again only days before this academic school year was set to begin as the storyline on who would be Brock’s new President and Vice-Chancellor continued to grow longer and longer.

Linda Rose-Krasnor, a Professor in Brock’s Psychology Department and President of Brock University’s Faculty Association wasn’t wrong when stating in her open letter We Are The University that, “Brock workers, along with the students who come here to learn, grow and contribute, are indeed the heart of this University.”

The alleged sexual harassment news led to a major uproar on campus, which included a student protest out in front of Schmon Tower. The search for a new president — which led to Wendy Cukier and Brock parting ways three-days prior to her beginning her appointment – led to some faculty, staff and students asking for clarity on what caused the mutual agreement and the next steps the Board of Trustees had planned.

Brock may not have handled the reported sexual harassment case as well as most hoped — choosing to reveal limited information and denying some allegations — but beyond the report itself, the university has taken steps to improve.

The hiring of a Sexual Violence Response and Education Coordinator in early September will allow Brock to give a voice to the right people. After speaking to Allison Cadwallader, who was hired into the position, it’s clear the school is looking to give voice to faculty, staff and most importantly students.

During my conversation with Cadwallader she said, “My hopes are that I can put something in place that inspires the students to continue to be involved and put energy towards an educational plan. I don’t want to be the face of this. I want the students to be the driving force and the face of this work.”

Cadwallader’s position allows students to have someone to communicate with directly in regards to matters of sexual violence, and also gives students a voice to express their ideas, especially after last year.

And although Brock faculty, staff and students are still out of the loop on what happened with Cukier, for the time being, the university is in good hands. Tom Traves was named Interim Acting President and Vice-Chancellor at the end of September. Traves comes to Brock with an impressive resume that is highlighted by his 18-years as the President at Dalhousie University.

With what Traves has done over his career, before retiring in 2013, people around Brock can work under a strong leader for the upcoming year. However, Brock’s Board of Trustees have a year to have a clear and smooth search for a non-Interim President.

John Suk’s, Chain of the Board of Trustees, wrote an open letter to the Brock community on Sept. 12. The statement ended with, “Ideally, we will all look to the future and not dwell on the past”.

And ideally that will hopefully happen one day, but today’s not the day. As we do ‘look to the future’, we as a community around campus and off campus are left with a year of wondering who and when Brock will announce the next President. More importantly, we are still left with wondering ‘how’ the process will be handled.

The future is still a bit foggy, but with the university’s new advertising campaign, that has completely redecorated Toronto’s Skywalk area of Union Station, the Pearson Express station and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, there is something to look forward to.

The campaign will catch the eye of future post-secondary students, making Brock the place to be, and making the school much more attractive to current and future grade 12 students.

Maybe one day Brock’s Board of Trustees will bring light to what exactly happened in the Cukier matter and also bring light to the process ahead.

After a shaky few months in 2016, Brock’s wheels are back on the right tracks. Just like any metaphorical train, there may still be a couple wobbly wheels, but at least we know with the voice of faculty, staff and students — ‘the heart of this university’ — those wheels can be tightened and the train can move forward smoothly.

 

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