Dave Scott-Thomas was terminated from the University of Guelph in December of 2019. On September 24th, alumni from University of Guelph wrote an open letter on iRun.ca to the University of Guelph to speak about how this situation has transpired since then. Current members of the Guelph cross country team demonstrated their support for this letter at the recent Bayfront Open competition in Hamilton and were joined by athletes from many different schools.
The open letter that was released by Guelph Track and Field/Cross Country alumni outlined how the University of Guelph seemingly ignored the complaints of student athletes during the regime of Dave Scott-Thomas and following his termination. It also claimed that the University has continued to avoid accountability after his dismissal. Attempts by the authors of the letter to have discussions with university administration and to be included in the internal policy review that was conducted, a source told iRun, were shut down. Athletes say that these recurring actions of poor transparency and unaccountability by the administration are not exclusive to past members of the Guelph Track and Field/Cross Country. Many members of the current team also feel that it remains a necessity for the university to conduct an open and independent investigation, to investigate the structure within the institution that, some say, allowed a culture of psychological, physical, and sexual abuse to exist for over a decade.
Following the release of the alumni open letter, some of the current members of the cross country team at Guelph have been working to ensure an independent investigation. The process has been frustrating, they tell iRun, as they have voiced their concerns at administrative meetings, but claim that each time that happens, administrators contradict themselves by voicing their support for the team while also refusing to commit to the actions—an independent investigation—that would remedy the situation.
In light of this, members of the team decided to be more public with their concerns. On October 22nd at the Bayfront Open competition in Hamilton, other cross-country teams within the OUA were invited to demonstrate their solidarity with the Guelph team and the authors of the alumni letter in the form of a protest. Students and alumni from McMaster, Queens, Western, the University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo, and the University of Windsor joined members from Guelph to show the overwhelming support they have for an independent investigation. As men’s XC team captain Mitchell Ubene explained, the photo contained the following messages which Guelph athletes wished to communicate:
“We Stand With Gryphon Alumni” — The students agree with the messages relayed in the letter written by the alumni and affirm that the university must listen to the concerns that were expressed.
“Hold Universities Accountable” — The students recognize these issues are not unique to Guelph; they are a systemic problem across universities and throughout sport. We realize these issues will continue to occur until the decision-making structure of universities is democratized into one that accurately represents the interests of the students, faculty, and surrounding community. Even then, if those who hold power are not held accountable for their actions, they will abuse it. This requires solidarity among students to ensure those in power do what is right.
“Independent Investigation” — The students ask that the university of Guelph follows through with conducting an open investigation managed by a third party, as advocated for in the open letter and by over 200 faculty members and others in the community.
When asked about this situation, according to sources, the university has consistently listed a number of changes they have implemented as a result of the findings from the McClaren Global Sports Solutions review. The claims from alumni and current student athletes, however, have repeatedly been that they do not feel confident that this general policy review was substantial enough because it has lacked transparency and failed to actively engage current and past athletes. It is clear, according to interviews, that they are not satisfied with this level of a response and feel that an investigation should occur to ensure the current administration has the proper structures in place to make the safety of student athletes a priority.