Principal and Vice-Chancellor

[Principal and Vice Chancellor]
[Principal and Vice Chancellor]

Principal's statement on Steve Boyd

On February 19, 2020, Queen’s University released Steve Boyd from his role as track and cross-country coach. Mr. Boyd held this volunteer position for 10 years. During his time with the University, Mr. Boyd worked with many student athletes and helped the track and cross-country programs achieve considerable success.

The decision to terminate Mr. Boyd’s volunteer position provoked discussion and expressions of concern regarding its appropriateness, reasoning and timing. In consequence of that and as Principal of the University, I felt it necessary to work with legal counsel to review the documentation in and around both the history of Mr. Boyd’s association with the University and the termination of that arrangement. I did this while reflecting on the University’s commitment to free speech, our values as an institution, and the various Codes of Ethics and Conduct that govern our Athletics & Recreation Department and collegiate sport in Ontario and Canada.

After much consideration and careful review, and while acknowledging the past successes of the cross-country program, I have concluded that the University made the correct decision in ending its relationship with Mr. Boyd. The decision was based on a pattern of objectionable social media commentary that spanned several years. Since 2015, Mr. Boyd has been spoken to and cautioned a number of times with regard to this online activity.

It was the nature of Mr. Boyd’s treatment of others in his social media posts, rather than the fact of his speaking out, that led to the decision to end the University’s relationship with him. Queen’s University is no less committed to the values of respect, dignity and empathy than it is to upholding and promoting the value of free speech. Especially in those who may be construed to represent the University and its values, or those who are entrusted with the mentoring and guidance of students, it believes those two commitments must be interdependent.

In announcing the termination, the University could nevertheless have done better. In an effort not to re-victimize the student athletes who were the subject of Mr. Boyd’s posts, we chose to provide limited details where greater transparency was desirable. Specific reasons for the termination of the relationship ought to have been given. More thought should also have been given to the timing of the decision and the communication of that decision to our student athletes training under Mr. Boyd. Now we must continue to communicate with those affected and ensure that they are provided with access to any supports that they require. We are hopeful that new coaching staff will be in place later this summer, for which a search will commence immediately.

Queen’s remains proud of its Athletics & Recreation Department and of its achievements over the years. Our alumni have gone on to achieve considerable success in their sport as well as in their lives and careers, and I realize that their association with the Department was instrumental in this. The University recognizes the many contributions the Athletics & Recreation Department makes to our community, and we are aware that changes in safe sport practices and expectations of athletes and parents mean we must constantly evaluate and evolve all of our programs.  In recent years, universities across North America have engaged in athletic and recreation reviews and a number of issues and consequential improvements have been made with respect to safe sport policy, athlete wellness, gender issues, complaints processes and coach/athlete power dynamics.

The University has retained the Sport Law & Strategy Group as an independent third party to conduct a review of the policies and practices of our Athletics & Recreation Department to ensure we remain one of the leading collegiate Athletics & Recreation departments in Canada. This is in keeping with University policy that sees regular reviews of a number of departments. 

The Sport Law & Strategy Group was created in 1992 and specializes in offering legal services, strategic planning, risk management and leadership development to national, provincial, community and collegiate sport organizations across Canada. In addition, the SLSG has extensive experience in collegiate sports policy development and implementation.