WUFA Comments on the new University of Windsor Whistleblower Safe Disclosure Policy
April 17, 2023
WUFA has serious concerns with the recently enacted University of Windsor Whistleblower Policy.
We are troubled that the University, despite its claims of wishing to consult with the broader University Community, and the requirements to do so under Article 2 of our Collective Agreement, is acting unilaterally. The University has failed to consider the broader repercussions of its policies, particularly the disproportionate effects that these policies will have on racialized members of WUFA.
As our colleagues at RAACES have outlined in their letter, everyone on campus is in favour of greater accountability and transparency. Indeed, those who have evidence of wrongdoing should feel free to come forward and voice their concerns. We are in agreement with the former American Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandeis when he stated: “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
As such, we would have welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with the University in developing these policies. Unfortunately, this has not been the case as the University decided to “consult” only by meeting with WUFA after the policy was developed with the help of outside consultants and approved by the Board of Governors. We question the University’s commitment to consulting when things are presented to our membership as a fait accompli under the guise of “consulting.”
Had the University administration chosen a different path, they would have learned that Whistleblower hotlines have been abused in the past, to the point where actors who have nefarious intentions can exploit the process to unfairly malign and impugn the reputations of colleagues with little or no evidence, or even in the furtherance of personal grudges. Moreover, research shows that often, racialized individuals are the objects of many unsubstantiated claims of whistleblowing. The University has failed to demonstrate how it will guard against this possibility and respect the procedural rights of our members to answer charges made against them as enshrined in our collective agreement. This course of action, unless it is reversed, opens the door to the creation of a toxic environment of unsubstantiated accusations and recriminations that will undermine the pursuit of open and respectful relations across campus. Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Decolonization all call for the cooperative and mindful upholding of such relations.
The University has at its disposal, the expertise of its faculty - our members - versed in system design, methods of holding people accountable, and importantly, in systemic racism and how it can manifest itself in unconscious and unseen ways. A recurring frustration among Indigenous, Black, and racialized groups is the manner in which they are often excluded from the planning stages of a project involving them, and then asked to come to the table at the eleventh hour, if at all. In this case, no faculty whatsoever were invited to the table at any point of the process. Had the University engaged with us sooner, and asked for our help, we could have partnered with it to address these shortcomings at the design stage and help foster more buy-in at the University level.
While the University may state that our members can be reassured that a trained third party will help to ensure that our members rights will be respected, we are not satisfied that procedures have been put in place to ensure that the third party will remain vigilant and accountable for respecting the rights of our members. Grant Thornton’s principal expertise seems to be in finance, yet our University website states that “suspected improper activity,” will include offences such as “a serious breach of University policy, a violation of legal or regulatory requirements, financial or research misconduct, conflicts of interest, or other similar situations.” In terms of EDID rights, Grant Thornton, while citing the usual platitudes about EDID, and declaring that "43 per cent of our National Management Committee are women and 53 per cent of our most recent partner and principal appointments were women,” evidence three out of ten women (all white) on their National Management Team, and no racialized persons whatsoever. How can we be reassured that this is a suitable third-party service? How much has it cost the University?
We agree with RAACES that members’ rights also include privacy rights, and we will continue to have concerns until the University develops sound policies to ensure that this is the case.
Furthermore, the University argues that regardless of the implementation of this policy, the clauses of the collective agreement will prevail. The collective agreement already has provisions in place governing how our members are to be investigated, and has provisions against harassment. If this is the case, then why is there a need for this policy if it is moot vis-à-vis our members? How will the University ensure that non-WUFA members of the University Community are not subjected to the same concerns as those outlined here?
WUFA calls upon the University to scrap this policy and engage in a meaningful dialogue with WUFA and other affected stakeholders. We urge the University to heed the calls of our members and ensure that those who have engaged in misconduct are held to account for their actions in a way that respects the rights of our members.
Reminder: WUFA filed a policy grievance, re: the University of Windsor’s Whistleblower Safe Disclosure Policy.