The return of David Shimmelpenninck to the classroom isn’t sitting well with Brock University students. The professor, who teaches in the history department, is set to return to teaching this semester with his first lecture on January 10.
“Professor Schimmelpenninck has been absent from the classroom since March 2016, as a result of discipline following an investigation into sexual harassment, as well as for related health issues and accursed academic leave,” Brock stated in a press release on Jan. 3.
The timeline of the sexual harassment begins in January 2014, when a student said she was involved in an incident with Schimmelpenninck that included “kissing and groping”. The incident was taken to Brock administration in March 2014, where the student met with then-President Jack Lightstone multiple times. The first meeting included Professor Tim Conley and Brock counsellor Rebecca Boucher, and the second included members from human rights and human resources.
The student was asked to make an informal compliant to avoid any paper trail. A third-party investigation determined there was insufficient evidence.
Then in October 2014, a second incident took place in which Shimmelpenninck met two different students, a male and a female, at the school bar following one of his classes. The two students were invited back to the professors’ office for more alcohol. The male student eventually went home leaving Shimmelpenninck and the female student alone in the office.
In a 2016 article with the CBC, the second female student said after the male student left, Shimmelpenninck made sexual advances, inappropriate and unwelcome physical touch, comments of sexual nature and a provocative comment attempting to arrange ongoing intimacy. This was admitted in an investigation by a lawyer.
The second incident was reported to campus security in September 2015, which led to an independent investigation by the school in Jan. 2016.
Schimmelpenninck continued to teach before the CBC broke the story in March 2016, in which Brock said the day prior to the story’s publication that Schimmelpenninck was no longer “assigned to a class” and was no longer on campus.
It should be noted that since these incidents and the administration decision, the Brock regime has changed significantly.
In the statement released by Brock last week, it was mentioned that an arbitration decision was made on December 14, 2018 by arbitrator Kevin Burkett. The decision allowed for Schimmelpenninck to return to the classroom, as per the University’s collective agreement with Brock University’s Faculty Association.
“Professor Schimmelpenninck has the right of every faculty member to teach, do his research, and participate in the service responsibilities incumbent upon every faculty member, in compliance with relevant University policies.” BUFA said in a statement last week.
Schimmelpenninck will be teaching a non-compulsory second-year course this semester that takes place on Thursday’s from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
“The University has put in place a set of conditions associated with Professor Schimmelpenninck’s return to the classroom,” said the press release from the university. Brock has not released what these conditions are, but that Schimmelpenninck has agreed to them and that he will be completing coaching for respectful workplace practices.
The release went on to say that Brock has taken steps to develop policies, procedures and resources to address human rights issues. Since these incidents the university has implemented a new Sex Assault and Harassment Policy, the Sexual Violence Response and Education Coordinator position; providing further and ongoing training to the Brock community; and establishing the Human Rights and Equity Office as an independent entity that reports directly to the President.
In response to Schimmelpenninck’s return to the classroom, Brock University Students’ Union’s Student Justice Centre, along with OPIRG Brock held a meeting on Jan. 7 to allow for students to voice their concerns and discuss the next steps.
“This meeting was to help get together students who want to help with organizing a public demonstration and respond to the university and professor so that people know what’s going on and know about the situation,” said Manchari Para, a member of OPIRG Brock.
“Some of the things that have come out of this are a list of demands that we are going to be sharing.”
The list of demands includes having Schimmelpenninck resign without a buyout, as the university can’t punish him again for the same incident. The meeting also included discussion of the university implementing a code of ethics, which currently doesn’t exist for staff.
“He has to be the one to leave,” said Para. “The only option we are left with is making the students aware of the situation and making sure they make it clear whether or not they want someone like him in the university.”
It was also emphasized in the meeting that the current leadership at Brock is not to be blamed, as the decision for Schimmelpenninck’s return is solely on the arbitrator, and previous decisions were made by former administrative staff.
A sheet containing contextual information was handed out in the meeting which stated the following: “Brock University bungled the disciplinary process from the beginning. The disciplinary letter that Schimmelpenninck was sent after the formal complaint removed him as Associate Dean. In his Associate Dean position, Brock could have fired him without issue. Moving him back into the faculty association gave him the protection of a Collective Agreement. He was not back in BUFA’s bargaining unit until after his disciplinary leave.”
The message also says that the university could have negotiated a research post for Schimmelpenninck to keep him out of the classroom, but that was not done.
The meeting concluded with a decision to protest out front of Schmon Tower and the Sir Isaac Brock statue on Jan. 10 beginning at 3:00 p.m. A similar protest took place when news broke of the two Schimmelpenninck incidents in 2016. The plan is to move the protest inside prior to 5:00 p.m., and continue outside of Schimmelpenninck’s classroom and remain there until the conclusion at 7:00 p.m.
It was noted in the meeting that a majority of the students enrolled in Schimmelpenninck’s class, War and Peace in the Modern Age (HIST 2P64), are male students.
Prior to the meeting between students, about 15 faculty members met to discuss potentially getting BUFA to release the arbitration process, which is protected by the Collective Agreement.
A meeting with BUFA is supposed to be held later today.
In a statement to The Brock Press, Schimmelpenninck said the following:
“I regret my past behaviour, and if I could undo it, and the harm I caused, I absolutely would. I had a drinking problem for a very long time.”
He stated that he has since received help for his alcoholism and does not drink anymore.
“I made a serious mistake and the university has disciplined me for them,” the statement continued. “I know that some people will never accept me back at the school.”
Schimmelpenninck didn’t mention any desire to step down. If a certain number of students drop his course, it could lead to the cancellation of the class.
In the student meeting, it was elaborated that the student’s would take a long-term approach in getting Schimmelpenninck to resign.
The matter is still ongoing as SJC and OPIRG Brock have collectively put together a media and social media team to get the word out on the steps students will be taking moving forward.
The Brock Press will continue to update this story as developments continuing to be made.