British Columbia

National organization demands suspension of 2 senior B.C. university leaders facing investigation

A federation representing 72,000 college and university teachers is calling on B.C.'s Thompson Rivers University to suspend two senior administrators while they're under investigation for alleged bullying and anti-Indigenous racism.

TRU's Matt Milovick and Larry Phillips face allegations that include bullying, harassment and racism

Larry Phillips, left, was the assistant vice-president of people and culture at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C. His former boss Matt Milovick, right, is the university's vice-president of finance and administration. (Thompson Rivers University/Twitter and TRU.ca)

A federation representing 72,000 college and university teachers is calling on B.C.'s Thompson Rivers University to suspend two senior administrators while they're under investigation for alleged bullying and anti-Indigenous racism.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) sent a letter last week to the university's board chair, Marilyn McLean, expressing serious concerns about how TRU has handled the allegations against Matt Milovick, vice-president of finance and administration, and his subordinate Larry Phillips, the assistant vice-president of people and culture.

The letter says it's especially troubling that the two men appear to still be active in their positions.

​​"Given the seriousness of the allegations and the positions of power both Mr. Milovick and Mr. Phillips occupy within the administration, it would be appropriate and is demanded that both be placed on paid leave pending the outcome of the investigation," the association's executive director David Robinson wrote in the letter.

He described this as standard practice to ensure that an investigation is impartial, and said it's particularly important in this case because Milovick and Phillips are responsible for matters related to human resources.

"The decision to keep Mr. Milovick and Mr. Phillips active in their positions during the investigation casts clouds of doubt over the entire process. It also threatens to inflict serious reputational damage and disrupt the workplace for all employees," Robinson said.

A TRU spokesperson said the university would not comment while the investigation is underway.

A statement provided by the university last month says TRU is taking the matter seriously.

Board chair McLean is quoted as saying that until the investigation is complete and unless the allegations are substantiated, it would be "unfair and unjust" to take any action against Milovick and Phillips.

Thompson Rivers University has promised a thorough investigation of the allegations against Phillips and Milovick. (tru.ca)

At least 13 current and former TRU employees have now filed complaints against Milovick and Phillips, according to the letter.

A recent CBC investigation uncovered allegations that both men fostered an unsafe and toxic workplace, and made anti-Indigenous comments on the job. The allegations against Phillips also include sexual harassment.

The terms of reference for the school's investigation say it will include possible violations of, among other things, the B.C. Human Rights Code, TRU's memorandum of understanding with the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc, workplace safety regulations and the school's policies on diversity, sexualized violence and harassment.

The investigation was launched in response to a Feb. 8 letter from an anonymous group that says the authors have been in contact with about a dozen people "who report directly witnessing, or being the victims of, discriminatory conduct, discriminatory statements and/or harassment" by Milovick and Phillips.

With files from Jennifer Chrumka

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