More than 200 professors and staff have demanded that the University of Guelph do more to address its past and current handling of the allegations against former track coach Dave Scott-Thomas.
The university has been under increasing scrutiny since a Globe and Mail investigation detailed allegations of a sexual relationship between Mr. Scott-Thomas and a young athlete beginning in 2002, and accusations that he fostered a toxic sporting culture.
The investigation also revealed the University of Guelph was made aware of the allegations in 2006, and continued to employ its star coach until last year.
Mr. Scott-Thomas was widely seen as the most influential person in Canadian track and field. The university said it received a second complaint against Mr. Scott-Thomas in the fall. Mr. Scott-Thomas was fired in December.
Mr. Scott-Thomas’s lawyer has said in a statement that the allegations were unsubstantiated and inaccurate. The statement did not address any questions or specify what Mr. Scott-Thomas denied.
In a letter dated Feb. 14 and addressed to university president Franco Vaccarino, the University of Guelph staff said the revelations in the Globe investigation were “shocking and disturbing.” The 219 signatories said they were left with “a deep sense of shame.”
The letter, which was obtained by The Globe, categorizes the details as “evidence of the worst kind of abuse of power” by Mr. Scott-Thomas, and says they indicate that “high-level administrators at the time may have participated in willfully ignoring and minimizing this abuse.” The letter goes on to say their trust in the school has been shaken.
The group asked that the university conduct a thorough external investigation of how the administration has handled the case since 2006 and make the results public. They also want the university to acknowledge that The Globe’s report outlined physical and sexual assault, and that it was gendered violence.
The running community has been in turmoil since the allegations surfaced, with Guelph alumni coming under fire on social media for what they may have known about Mr. Scott-Thomas’s behaviour. One vocal critic, Queen’s University coach Steve Boyd, was fired last week for his criticism of the University of Guelph’s handling of the scandal, and terse remarks directed at alumni.
Mr. Boyd’s dismissal has triggered anger and debate, with his former athletes and many in the running community demanding he be reinstated. An online petition had more than 3,300 signatures as of Monday evening.
The Canadian Association of University Teachers issued a statement of concern over Mr. Boyd’s firing. “Free expression is crucial to the university,” said David Robinson, the organization’s executive director. “Academic freedom cannot thrive in an environment where free expression is suppressed.”
The Globe has also learned that the University of Guelph has dismissed a second coach from its track and field program.
The university’s track team was assembled on Feb. 13 and informed that Guyson Kuruneri, a field events coach, was dismissed that morning for what administrators called a “code of conduct” complaint.
Mr. Kuruneri was formally an assistant coach with the school since 2015, but played a coaching role while he was still a student athlete in the program.
Mr. Kuruneri did not respond to requests for comment from The Globe.
The university said it does not comment on human resources matters, but did confirm that it no longer employs Mr. Kuruneri.
In a response to The Globe’s inquiry about Mr. Kuruneri’s dismissal on Feb. 18, the university acknowledged that since it updated its code of conduct in 2018, it had “ended its relationship with a small number of coaches” due to violations.
The school would not elaborate further as to who those coaches were or the nature of their violations.
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