The University of Winnipeg Global College promotes human rights abroad, however, former employees say treatment of its local staff leaves something to be desired.
Alex Garcia, who worked as a student assistant at Global College from November 2010 to April 2011, said ambiguous workloads, lack of direction and clashes with management made it a difficult environment to work in.
“Working at the Global College and being part of the Human Rights Program has made me question its validity,” Garcia told The Uniter in an interview.
With many projects on the go and little time for training, work crises were common during his time at the college, said Garcia.
“The thing is that there is no real leadership demonstrated. There’s lot of crisis management. There is no long-term planning, no time,” said Garcia.
Garcia said that the work atmosphere made it difficult to voice concerns, and leadership was intimidating.
“There’s this expectation that students will rise and meet challenges. You get pissed on when you fail to meet those really high standards,” said Garcia.
Eliakim Sibanda, who was director for the Institute of Human Rights and Global Studies at the college until summer 2010, said he noticed a large number of staff left the college during his time there.
“The only thing I can say - it was an alarming turnover,” Sibanda said.
Several staff members went on extended sick leaves as well, Sibanda added.
Four former staff members of the college would not speak on the record when contacted by The Uniter.
However, anonymous sources formerly connected to the college say that in the past few years, the atmosphere has become much less welcoming, and several staff members had to take extended sick leaves or have left the college due to working conditions there.
Dr. Marilou McPhedran, principal of the college, could not speculate as to why staff members have left the college.
The college operates on a basis of both permanent and short-term contract positions, the shortest of which is three months long, McPhedran said.
Many of the staff that have left the college were contract staff seeking more permanent work, she said.
“When you start something new, you go through different ways of trying to figure out what is the administration model or leadership model that’s going to work,” said McPhedran. “This is not actually unusual, this is not necessarily negative.”
McPhedran could recall only one extended sick leave during Sibanda’s time at the college.
She added that Garcia’s experience is not the norm, and the institute is respectful of its staff.
“This is the first time that I have known Alex Garcia had any issues,” McPhedran said. “I’ve had student assistants tell me that it’s been a really fantastic work experience.”
Current student assistants could not be reached for comment by press time.
College changes location
Meanwhile, Global College recently moved from the Rice Building to Centennial Hall this fall.
Bill Balan, vice-president of finance and administration, said this move helps to cluster departments with similar functions.
“They are very much an academic organization. I think it’s much more synergistic to have them there in that milieu than (in the Rice Building),” Balan said.
Administrative offices have replaced the space Global College occupied in the Rice Building, said Balan.
The university is avoiding paying out rent to other institutions by utilizing space in its own facilities. However, the university has 25 per cent ownership of the Rice Building.
“We do get some of the money back that we pay in rent in the form of profit sharing. As long as we need space we’d do it here over any other,” said Balan.
McPhedran said the move has given students and staff a sense of space.
“It’s integrated with other classes, other locations that (students) are going to. Increasingly, there’s a sense that this is a Global College space,” she said.
With files from Ethan Cabel.
Published in Volume 66, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 22, 2012)