Developing a Values-Based Culture at TRU

TRU is committed to providing staff, faculty, and students a safe, inclusive environment in which to work and study. The launch of the Board of Governors’ investigation into the alleged misconduct of two senior administrative employees and the ensuing concern about workplace culture made it apparent our members of the university community needed an opportunity to share their thoughts and experiences about working here.

As a result, TRU’s senior executive team engaged the services of an independent HR consultant with extensive post-secondary experience, as well as the services of a dedicated HR consulting firm (The Neutral Zone), to assist TRU in further developing a values-based culture that aligns with our vision and mission. These consultants will add capacity and work alongside TRU’s own People and Culture department.

Enlisting the support of The Neutral Zone (TNZ) is TRU’s acknowledgement of what we have heard—that there are concerns about workplace culture, and that there are some within our university community who remain uncomfortable about reporting any concerns or complaints (whether made under a collective agreement or under the Respectful Workplace and Harassment Prevention Policy).

TNZ will assist TRU in two ways—by providing additional capacity to address complaints, as well as by facilitating broader discussions on workplace culture. Donna Murnaghan (Interim Provost), Brian Daly (Vice-President University Relations) and Baihua Chadwick (Vice-President International) will oversee this work.


Reporting harassment and discrimination

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Updates

April 2022 — Introducing new facilitator and next steps

Dear colleagues,

As shared with you previously, TRU is embarking this year on a university-wide conversation about our workplace culture. We want to take this opportunity to introduce a key individual who will assist us with this effort, and update you about next steps.

TRU’s conversation about workplace culture will be an opportunity to talk about what it means to work here, what our experiences are with one another, and how we can improve. Initially, TRU engaged with The Neutral Zone (TNZ) to help develop our thinking.

Based on those discussions, we have now asked Raj Dhasi from Turning Point Resolutions to be TRU's facilitator for this initiative.

Raj is an expert in conflict resolution, with experience supporting various sectors including post-secondary. Her work also includes designing listening processes that address power and privilege, with a focus on equity and ensuring safety.

And that’s what we wish to achieve at TRU: undertake a process that will empower and enable people to share their thoughts and experiences with us and do so safely. We anticipate this to be a year-long process, with the following three phases:

  • Design of the Listening Phase — Raj will spend the next several weeks seeking input from individuals and groups within TRU on how we engage in this conversation, with whom, and clarifying roles.
  • Listening Phase — This will be the heavy lifting, the deep and authentic dialogue about our workplace culture. Based on input during Phase 1, there will be various ways in which individuals can be involved. We want to hear from many voices. This phase will respect the natural rhythms of our university operations and is likely to begin in September when all faculty and staff are able to participate.
  • Actioning Phase — Based on what we heard in the Listening Phase, we will develop and commit to actions. Along with that is a commitment to evaluation, to gauge our progress.

While TRU has engaged the expertise of external consultants to assist us with our journey, these consultants are acting only as supports for the university. Ultimately, this is our work—owned by each one of us at TRU. Whether we are in administrative positions, are faculty or staff, workplace culture is about us, about how we behave with one another. And ultimately, our culture is interconnected with how students experience TRU.

We want to emphasize: the end result of this effort with Raj will not simply be a report or a set of recommendations that sit on a shelf. Our commitment is that our conversations about workplace culture will result in initiatives that drive real change at TRU. It will be our shared responsibility to build the workplace culture we want.

Thank you, as always, for all that you do to support TRU, students and our communities.

Sincerely,

Donna Murnaghan, Provost and Vice-President Academic (Interim)
Brian Daly, Vice-President University Relations
Baihua Chadwick, Vice-President International

Mid-January 2022 — Input from leadership on TRU conversation on culture

TRU executive and senior administrators, including deans, directors and VPs, begin to provide input into a future TRU-specific engagement process for the broader TRU community on workplace culture.

Dec. 9, 2021 — Consulting firm to support handling of concerns or complaints

TRU engaged the services of HR consultant Lisa Castle and the consulting firm, The Neutral Zone. TNZ will be an option, along with current processes, for employees to bring forward concerns or complaints related to bullying, harassment, and discrimination. TNZ will also support a future conversation on workplace culture.

Watch for a future update that will include the various pathways to bring forward concerns.


Support resources

If recent events have left you feeling unsure, worried, stressed, fearful or anxious, please reach out for help.

LifeWorks

LifeWorks is our confidential Employee Family Assistance Program. It is free and available around the clock to eligible TRU faculty and staff, spouses, and dependents. Services include counseling and crisis support. Call 1-877-207-8833 or learn more about LifeWorks services available on our OneTRU page.


Frequently asked questions

What is a complaint?

When a student or employee discloses a concern about someone else’s conduct, TRU has an obligation to listen, provide support, and outline options. If a student or employee chooses to make a formal statement and request an investigation, this is a “complaint” under TRU policies.

TRU respects employees’ and students’ wishes about whether to make formal statements or pursue complaints. In some cases, TRU may launch its own investigation (or be required to do so) even if a student or employee does not request it.

Who are TRU’s investigators for complaints?

When management receives a complaint, TRU has a practice of appointing an outside investigator whose role is to talk to the parties involved, with the expectation they will conduct a thorough investigation and prepare a report.

Investigators are neutral third-party professionals who are experienced with respect to workplace or student interactions, are careful and empathetic listeners, and are skilled at assessing experiences and evidence. Depending on the nature of the issue, TRU may seek out an investigator with trauma-informed investigation training. Since their role often involves assessing conflicting interpretations of people’s experiences, investigators are often lawyers or legally trained professionals.

How does an investigation proceed?

Investigations are governed by TRU policies or collective agreements. An investigation usually begins with the investigator meeting with and listening to a complainant. This process may take some time, because experience with trauma-informed investigations suggests that complainants’ stories may not come out all at once or in chronological order. At some point when the complainant’s experience has become clear to the investigator, the investigator will take steps to conduct a fact-finding exercise by interviewing witnesses with useful evidence and seeking out any relevant documents. The last step is for the investigator to talk to the respondent (the person alleged to have behaved improperly) to put the allegations and evidence to him or her and hear the respondent’s version of events.

Finally, the investigator assesses what occurred and makes findings with respect to whether the complaint is substantiated in whole or in part or not at all.

The standard for these findings is on balance of probabilities, meaning the investigator can reach conclusions based on what is likely to be true Unlike in a criminal trial where a person’s liberty is at stake, the findings to not have to be established beyond reasonable doubt. The investigator then issues a report to TRU whose responsibility is to take appropriate action or not based on the findings.

When is a respondent put on leave?

When management has received an allegation of misconduct by a student or an employee, a responsible individual reviews the allegation and assesses its seriousness based on what specifically has been asserted, the context, the identity of the complainant, any early circumstantial indicators of the complaint’s credibility, and TRU policies. Based on this information, a respondent may be placed on leave (directed not to work or study) or be given alternate work or study arrangements while an investigation of the allegation proceeds. Usually, such leaves are short-term (up to a few months) and often they have the purpose of preventing contact between the complainant and the respondent or removing the respondent from a position of influence over the complainant or the investigation or to prevent further harm to the employee if that is a legitimate concern.

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