Wilfrid Laurier University Grad Student Association blasted for terminating café operator over help wanted ad

The former operator of the on-campus Veritas Café at Wilfrid Laurier University says a help wanted ad he posted that said he was looking for 'a new slave' was a joke. But the Graduate Student Association, which owns the café, didn't find it funny and terminated his contract.

Ad looking for a 'slave' was a joke, café operator Sandor Dosman says

Veritas Café is located on the Wilfrid Laurier University campus in Waterloo, Ont. This week, the operator of the café, Sandor Dosman, had his contract terminated over a help wanted ad deemed inappropriate by the Graduate Student Association. (Twitter)

Sandor Dosman thought he was posting a tongue-in-cheek help wanted ad that would make people laugh. Instead, it cost him his job.

On Monday, Dosman was informed his service agreement to run the on-campus Veritas Café for the Wilfrid Laurier University Graduate Student Association (WLUGSA) would be terminated.

It comes after he posted a help wanted ad said to be in violation of his contract.

Sandor Dosman was on his third contract with the WLUGSA and a fourth one was in the works. (Facebook)

The ad Dosman posted began with the line: "I need a new slave (full-time staff member) to boss (mentor) around at Veritas Café." It also made reference to working in a food truck "so man buns and tattoos are OK" and that interested people should send their resumes to "the best boss in the world."

The ad was a joke, Dosman said.

"This was a fun, tongue-in-cheek help wanted ad, that was very successful, by the way. It was the best ad I've ever ran. I got great response from it," he told CBC News, noting he got dozens of resumes. "If they get that ad, that's the kind of person I want to hire."

Apology for ad

The WLUGSA, however, did not find the ad funny. The group had a meeting with Dosman Monday to inform him his contract was being terminated.

Dosman said they wouldn't get into specifics, but the WLUGSA board members found the whole ad unacceptable.

The contract specified that Dosman's conduct could not "injure the reputation" of the WLUGSA.

"They did point to the fact that I said, 'Well, you also say pay is crap.' And I'm like, 'It's the service industry. It is. Ask anyone who works in a restaurant,'" he said.

Dosman said it was his third contract to run the café and the WLUGSA had indicated they were ready to start working on his fourth contract before Monday's meeting.

He expected they might want him to apologize when they called him into a meeting.

"I do apologize if people were offended by it. That was not the intent at all. And, of course, you know, with this outcome of me losing my livelihood, that's not something I wanted," he said.

Because he was hiring employees who would be serving customers, Dosman said he wanted them to have a sense of humour. (Twitter)

'Behaving like petty bullies'

Dosman said the only reason he said anything was because rumours started to swirl on campus about why the café closed. He wanted people to know it wasn't related to health code or liquor licence violations, and there were no problems with harassment or staff.

But since Dosman went public, he's seen an outpouring of support.

"I'm shocked, I'm overwhelmed," he said of the messages he's received.

Many students on the WLUGSA's Facebook page said while the wording of Dosman's ad was perhaps not the best, it shouldn't have resulted in him losing his job.

Under one post about a "Wonders of Winter" walking tour event, a woman named Crystal Timmings wrote, "You know who isn't feeling festive? The small business owner and 10 students who lost their jobs because of your bad decision and overreaction to … wait for it … an ad to provide more jobs for students that could have used it."
This is the ad Dosman posted to find new employees for the Veritas Café. (Facebook)

At least two petitions have been started — one on Change.org and the second by media outlet The Rebel.

"Rhetoric is different than practice. Based on Mr. Dosman's character in general and his advertisement in particular, it is painfully clear that he was making a joke," wrote Jacob Gorenkoff on the Change.org petition.

The Rebel petition uses the headline: "Students at Laurier University need to learn to take a joke."

Byron Williston, an associate professor of philosophy at the Waterloo-based university, penned an open letter in which he said he was "extremely disappointed" with the decision to terminate Dosman's contract.

"I suppose it's a sign of the times, especially on university campuses whose student bodies — undergraduate and graduate — seem to have been taken over by the terminally thin-skinned and self-righteous," Williston wrote.

"Perhaps you should direct your moral outrage at some of the many real problems in the world, rather than behaving like petty bullies."

Café to reopen in January

WLUGSA President Samantha Deeming was asked if the group would reconsider their decision, given the outcry from students, faculty, staff and those off campus.

"We can confirm that the employees who wanted to have continued to work all of this week and have been offered to work hours next week. We can also confirm that we are working diligently on a plan to reopen the café in January," Deeming said in an email to CBC News.

"We will not be making any further public comment about the termination of our service contract."

A statement from the university said the WLUGSA approached the school to discuss closing the café, and the university supported the "direction that the GSA chose to take" on the matter. 

"Given the importance that Laurier places on being an inclusive, welcoming and respectful community, the university supported the direction that the GSA chose to take. The university appreciates the challenges of dealing with confidential personnel and contract matters and we support the GSA in its efforts to reopen the café and rehire the affected employees," the statement read.

Dosman said he has not heard from the WLUGSA in recent days, but said if they were to ask him to come back, he'd consider it.

"I've had a great working relationship with this group. It's unfortunate that this happened," he said. "I'm leaving all doors open. It's hurtful, of course, but like I said before, second chances are something I believe in."