A report recently released by the UNBSU reveals formal complaints filed against former VP Advocacy prior to her resignation on September 28.
As previously reported by the Brunswickan, former VP Advocacy Kelsi Evans resigned from her position on September 28 and was replaced on an interim basis by former Wellness Coordinator Melissa Ghanem. This was announced on October 7, with minimal information provided regarding the reasons for the vacancy in the VP Advocacy position.
Following the news of her resignation and the appointment of the Interim VP Advocacy, the Brunswickan received a letter from Evans detailing her experience with the UNBSU, which highlighted how she felt “disrespected and disregarded” by the SU’s Executive team.
“After months of enduring some of the Executives’ behaviour to undermine my feelings towards my self-worth and the endless amount of effort I put into my job, I decided for my own well-being to resign,” wrote Evans in her letter, which can be found here.
The SU Executive offered the following in response to Evans’ letter:
"The UNB Student Union aims to be genuine, transparent, and accountable while fostering a positive and inclusive environment. This legacy has been long upheld by previous UNBSU cohorts, and we aim to continue doing so. Furthermore, the SU does not condone cancel-culture, as it does not align with our values, and is not a meaningful approach to amending workplace issues.
Following the resignation of Ms. Evans, a review of the executive team was conducted by our Chief Conduct Officer, an impartial third party - as per the suggestion of the UNB Human Rights office. This review consisted of individual interviews with each member of the UNB Student Union Executive team, and the General Manager, Karen Miner. This review is ongoing, and will be made accessible to the public on our website upon completion to ensure transparency. Sean Mackenzie, the President of the UNBSU, has also met with the Human Rights Office to discuss how the UNBSU can continue working towards creating an inclusive environment where all members feel heard and valued.
We, the UNBSU Executive, would like to extend our most sincere apologies to Kelsi Evans as it was never our intention to foster an environment in which you were made to feel disrespected. At this time, we have attempted to contact Kelsi Evans in order to further discuss her experience within the UNBSU, and hope that this interaction will bring forward a productive and meaningful conversation.”
They also encourage anyone wishing to discuss the matter to contact SU President Sean MacKenzie.
A formal complaint report dated October 6th reveals tensions existing among the UNBSU executive leading up to Evans’ resignation, including alleged violations of UNBSU bylaw 1-43, which details the responsibilities of the Executive team, bylaw 1-45, which details the responsibilities of the VP Advocacy, the Student Leader Code of Conduct, and 19 human resource policies and regulations.
These complaints were filed against Evans by VP Finance and Operations, Adriana LeFort, and VP Communications, Deanna Merriam. Both complainants called for the impeachment of Evans from the position of VP Advocacy.
“Ms. Evans has not held herself accountable in any sense to the lack of initiatives, programming, and advocacy for students, instead choosing to blame others,” wrote LeFort and Merriam in a joint statement. “After two Human Resource meetings, and multiple attempts to address her misconduct, we believe that it is imperative that Ms. Evans be removed from her position as Vice President Advocacy for the UNB Student Union.”
LeFort and Merriam reference numerous instances in which they believe Evans failed to meet the responsibilities of her role, including in her response to the Black Lives Matter Movement, Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and the incident concerning Flannery Jewellers, her Pride Week planning, and her involvement in the UNBSU Diversity Action Plan. They also mention alleged neglect of her duties in response to student concerns about the Student Accessibility Center and the Sexual Violence Prevention campaign.
“Ms. Evans' behaviour has caused other executives to take on her role, with myself and Ms. Pelkey [VP Internal Grace Pelkey] putting our own positions second to her shortcomings,” Merriam wrote in the complaint.
They also note hiring practices conducted by Evans that were counter to the procedures and regulations outlined by the UNBSU, specifically regarding the hiring of Wellness Councillors and the Get Out the Vote coordinator. They reference an apparent conflict of interest in a section that is entirely redacted, as it is “subject to further investigation outside of the UNBSU Code of Conduct Committee.”
One unredacted example of these purportedly questionable hiring practices concerns Tea Fazio, who ran against Evans for VP Advocacy in February. Fazio served as the Get Out the Vote coordinator and the process of her hiring and treatment while in the position, as described by Merriam, is used as evidence of these supposed malpractices.
“I believe Ms. Evans had no intention to run a GOTV campaign, advocate for student voter awareness, create any sort of initiative for GOTV, or work with Ms. Fazio despite being her direct supervisor,” wrote Merriam.
Evans’ alleged misconduct in human resources meetings was also cited by LeFort, who also serves as the SU’s Human Resources representative. She described one meeting in which she felt Evans was hostile toward her and SU President Sean MacKenzie when confronted with their concerns.
“Ms. Evans chose not to follow the path of this meeting and instead chose to verbally attack myself and Mr. MacKenzie with personal, non-work related grievances,” LeFort wrote.
Other complaints within the report include alleged misconduct during other human resources meetings, alleged breaches of confidentiality, and alleged animosity based on personal grievances between executive members.
The complaint was filed on September 15, and the Code of Conduct Committee was formed on September 17 following the ratification of the Chief Conduct Officer. A meeting of this committee was scheduled for September 28 to incite an investigation into these allegations.
Evans resigned the morning of the meeting two hours before it was set to be held, therefore rendering any investigation into the allegations moot, according to the SU who has since largely stopped further inquiry.
On October 4, six days following Evans’ resignation and 18 days following the filing of the complaint, the issue was addressed in a council meeting for the first time. During this meeting, the Interim VP Advocacy was also appointed by the council under recommendation by the Executive.
Four days later, on October 8, the appointment of a new VP Advocacy was announced to the student body. Ten more days later, on October 18, the SU released the complaint report and minutes from the meeting discussing the situation to the public.
Taylor Chalker contributed reporting.