Confidentiality requirements, according to a psychologist, have cultivated a toxic work environment.
According to one professor asking for reform, the University of Prince Edward Island’s policy for dealing with accusations of harassment and sexual harassment is set up to protect the institution rather than victims, allowing toxicity in the workplace to continue unchecked.
Confidentiality requirements established into UPEI’s Fair Treatment Policy, according to psychology professor Colleen MacQuarrie, safeguard “the interests of the institution and the rights of persons who have been accused of harassing.”
According to her, the university is able to maintain “the façade that everything is actually good” by asking complainants not to talk publicly about harassment incidents. This prevents the university from knowing “who should be held accountable” for workplace toxicity.
In the last week, there have been public accusations about a hostile work climate at UPEI under the previous president Alaa Abd-El-Aziz, who announced his unexpected retirement on Tuesday.
The university’s board of governors said Wednesday that it was invoking the Fair Treatment Policy in response to a workplace misconduct claim lodged against the former president on Monday, according to the board.
As if it were a shiny car
MacQuarrie said she has helped a number of colleagues and students file complaints under the policy, and she recently filed a complaint on behalf of a student who was hesitant to come out on their own.
She claims that maintaining confidentiality “runs counter to what victims of harassment genuinely require.”
Meanwhile, she claims that a lack of transparency and accountability permits serial workplace bullies to continue their behaviour with new victims, while the university ignores chronic, entrenched abuse that has led some employees to resign.
“On the surface, it appears that [the policy] is in place to protect the victims, but in the end, it’s like that gleaming car you might get into, where the wheels are held on by elastic bands.”
It appears to be functional until you try to use it. After that, the wheels come off.”
‘They have the upper hand,’ says the narrator.
Another issue with UPEI’s procedure for dealing with harassment, according to former athletic director Chris Huggan, who was fired without reason in 2020, is that the entire process is monitored by the university’s president.