UBCSUO Discusses VP Finance Censure after Allegations of Sexual Harassment Concealment
March 6th, 2018
Brie Welton - Editor in Chief, Dayne Patterson - News Editor, Noelle Viger - Staff Writer, Tyrel Lamoureux - Opinions Editor
An emergency Board of Directors meeting was held at noon on Saturday, March 3, to discuss the concerns of a female UBCO student following an incident that occurred, as reported by UBCO student Sally Hinke, on January 11 at the Level nightclub.
Hinke reported that a UBCO student grabbed her rear and would not desist, doing so a second time later that night even after she firmly told the individual to stop. Hinke claims the student “grabbed three other girls that night… even when all of them specifically told [the student], ‘NO.'”
Current VP Finance executive Romil Jain was recently accused by Hinke of covering up the instances of sexual harassment demonstrated by the student, whom he knew personally. Hinke made these claims by posting on Facebook in several UBCO Grad Pages.
Hinke’s accusation hinges on a message sent from Jain to another student who is close to those involved in the controversy. In the Facebook conversation in question, Jain stated that “we will keep this as if it’s forgotten and not talk about it.”
However, a screenshot submitted from Jain’s side of the conversation reveals that certain messages from the student had been deleted from the conversation, altering the context.
The original conversation reads:
Student: “There is a chance [Hinke] isn’t taking this any further, but everyone needs to be [quiet] for a while.”
Jain: “we will keep this as if it’s forgotten and not talk about it.”
Jain stated in a message to Hinke that if the matter could not be solved diplomatically in person, she could take any action she wanted. Jain mentioned that solving it privately would avoid “defamation” risks on her part and “humiliation” on the part of the student in question. He was also clear that he did not condone the student’s the sexual harassment at Level, “I understand what he did is wrong. But he is willing to apologize and do whatever that you guys find is needed to resolve the issue.”
Jain then organized a meeting between the two parties, after Hinke requested a personal apology, where the student took ownership for his actions and apologized for disrespecting Hinke, “I recognize that I am in the wrong and I take full responsibility.”
The student stated that this apology was not designed to get out of trouble, “For me it is not about getting out [of trouble], for me it is about the fact that you feel disrespected by me and violated by me and that’s my fault… I apologize for what I did.”
In the meeting, Hinke was adamant: “Being drunk is not a free pass, you need to accept your responsibilities… This all happened because of you.” The meeting terminated with Hinke’s reluctant acceptance of the student’s apology and announcing that “we’ll do what we have to do.”
The controversy was made public on Facebook late Friday, March 2, and early on March 3, by both the victim and the defendant in several grad pages.
Several concerns as to the timing of the controversy in relation to SUO elections have been brought up; however, Hinke has insisted that she began the reporting process back in January with the proper campus authorities. The complaint was first brought to the attention of the Student Union on January 18 and had been at acknowledged by several UBCSUO Executive and Board Members and had been an ongoing process with the Sexual Violence and Prevention Office thereafter. “I reached out to the person in a private message on Facebook to let her know that I would be there to support and even be a friend to her through this difficult time,” said Zainah Azzam, SUO Director at Large.
The Board meeting on March 3 was scheduled earlier that week after Hinke expressed interest in bringing this concern directly into the SUO. When the meeting began, a motion to move in-camera was made almost immediately, with an amendment made to allow Hinke to be allowed to remain in the meeting.
The nearly three-hour meeting yielded two decisions. Firstly, the Board decided that SUO President would write a letter on behalf of the Board to accept responsibility for the outcome of the allegations, and their failure as a Board to implement proper policies and a code of conduct to protect the student who made the allegations. The motion to write this letter carried unanimously, and the letter is scheduled to be released later this week.
Secondly, the Board decided whether to censure Jain for his role in the alleged concealment of these sexual assault allegations. Jain was not allowed to vote in this decision.
The censure would have made it clear that the Board did not approve of his actions, and it would have been noted in the minutes. There would not have been any further repercussions from the Board.
The vote was made by secret ballot, and the results were as follows: one in favour of censure, one spoiled ballot, two abstentions, and three votes to not censure. The vote did not carry, and the VP of Finance was not censured.
Trophy Ewila, Chair of the meeting, did not vote as per Robert’s Rules of Order. The votes were counted and collected by an unbiased third party.
Jain made a comment regarding the message that Hinke brought forward. “The context when I say all of us look bad is because Hamid, and every one of us, are in a close group. And this destroys our friendship. Not because I am saving my face.” Hinke explained that those messages were deleted by her boyfriend Hamid because “he did not want me to misinterpret that as him supporting Romil.”
She did add that she does not think that these deleted messages alter the story. “It does not affect Romil’s intention which I find more disappointing as he is someone who holds a position of power in the SUO.” Jain has since offered his resignation so long as evidence is provided that proves he abused his powers as VP Finance or tried to coerce Hinke in any way.