Following allegations that surfaced late January, McMaster University has prepared an action plan to respond to the issue, following the results of an external investigation.
McMaster Daily News reports that the investigation was focused in two areas: behaviour surrounding songs and songbook materials, and unsanctioned events that may put students at risk. The report can be found here, and the second report, prepared by Associate Vice-President and Dean of Students Sean Van Koughnett as an outline for University action, can be found here.
“The findings in the investigator’s report are disturbing,” said Provost and Vice-President Academic David Wilkinson in an Daily News interview. “The behaviour is unacceptable and while the McMaster Engineering Society had indicated in a document from some time ago that its culture needed to change, it is clear that the pace of change is not sufficient. The University will be implementing all of the recommendations in the dean of Students’ report.”
The external report included several findings of misconduct, including but not limited to:
- A selection process for Reps that included factors of alcohol and sexuality, in a likely attempt to discourage appropriate candidates from being selected.
- A Sauble beach excursion organized by the MES which included excessive and underage drinking and an inappropriate initiation ceremony that involved nudity, both of which were supported by MES finances.
- Conscious efforts by MES members and representatives to hinder said investigation through obscurement of information, and amendments to existing website materials.
The second report outlined several actions the University will take to address these findings:
- University oversight of Engineering student leader recruitment, orientation, and development – All representative recruitment will be done in cooperation with Student Affairs professionals and Engineering faculty administration.
- Financial Management – The $400,000+ budget of the MES will now require yearly audits, with future funds only being disbursed if the University finds said audit satisfactory.
- Policies – Welcome Week activity policies will be reviewed to ensure they follow the Student Events Risk Management policy.
- Status of Current Sanctions – In an effort to not stifle future society activities, all non-Executive and non-Senior reps will be eligible to be re-instated for Welcome Week, but alcohol restrictions will remain in place pending cooperation with other new policy shifts.
- Redsuits – The Redsuit uniform will remain in place as they repair the damage done to their engineering pride and inclusivity efforts.
- The Songbook – Any promotion or reference to the infamous songbook will be dealt with swiftly, and representatives will be required to attend diversity and sexual harassment/violence training.
The MSU has released a statement clarifying that this scandal is not indicative of the kind of behaviour present in other student-led societies, nor will it be an enormous constraint on organizational autonomy. “We are an organization that is ideally situated to define the leadership orientation and training programs alluded to in the recommendations,” said MSU President Teddy Saull. “Autonomous student leadership is the cornerstone of student life. The MSU will work with all faculty societies to ensure responsible student government continues to thrive for the benefit of the undergraduate students of McMaster University.”