Talk:Simon Fraser University 1997 harassment controversy

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This article is also subject to special scrutiny in this regard. An Arbitration Committee case remedy (Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Rachel Marsden#Remedies #2) authorizes any editor to stub the article if it violates Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons. Admins are also encouraged to be especially willing to delete articles mentioning one of the people involved in this controversy. However both prior speedy deletions have been overturned, so stubbing and seeking consensus for deletion might be advisable.

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Obsolete talk material containing negative accusations about living people removed per WP:BLP. diff


Yes, I have a thought. I think the procedure should start with nominating this article for deletion. It is hard for me to understand why we are devoting an entire article to a minor harassment case that was never even litigated. -Will Beback 21:42, 2 March 2006 (UTC)
I had my own doubts when I first saw that it'd been created, but:
  • Rachel Marsden has since emerged as a Canadian political commentator and scandal sheet celebrity; her own notability now is undisputed. Out of considerable contention on her page, there seems to be a rough consensus, between "both" "sides," that details of the case might best be spun off into a separate article, lest that overwhelm Marsden's subsequent claims to note.
  • It was a widely-enough followed and ongoing story in the national press of a major country in 1997. It's probably the most contentious issue in the history of the large and important Simon Fraser University, leading to the resignation of its president; as the article on SFU expands to track the university's history, and an article on president Stubbs is written as it'll probably eventually be, this article here would be a handy link from both, and would help avoid duplication, edit wars at each, etc.
  • Finally, its length, detail and sourcing — disproportionate on the face of it — is in some measure necessary, as bucketsofg has written elsewhere, because it is a complicated, he-said-she-said issue... Samaritan 22:36, 2 March 2006 (UTC)
Thanks, Samaritan. As I noted in the Marsden talk page, this is enormously complicated from every angle: both the nature of the allegations (he-said-she-said), the complexity of the procedural questions, and the results. And, it should be added, the story got press time in at least a hundred news articles over the space of a year, and these were not only in Canada, but many in the USA and some in the international press.Bucketsofg 23:13, 2 March 2006 (UTC)
If you guys say so. However if that's the case then perhaps the accounts in the respective biographies should be trimmed to short stubs. -Will Beback 00:45, 3 March 2006 (UTC)

Should not this be stubbed or deleted because of the ArbCom decision? What, exactly, does the ArbCom decision mean and how should it be enforced? Stompin' Tom 20:08, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

Rachel Marsden has now been deleted for having an unbalancing focus on negative aspects of the life of this minor celebrity. This article is entirely about negative aspects of her life. Simply because negative material is subarticle'd should not shield it from BLP considerations. It should be stubbed or deleted. - Merzbow 23:25, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

Probably an administrator should so it, rather than an non-admin risk provoking an edit war. A few people seem to have strong feelings on this. The ArbCom says it should go, and I do not understand why they, or their clerk, does not delete it. While the Marsden article had some work done on it to mitigate the worst abuses, this one seems pretty much as it was when it was dealt with by ArbCom. As I wrote on the Marsden discussion page, does this dispute set a precedent of any kind? From what I've read, no. Does it fit into a bigger picture regarding sexual harassment, or allegations of same, in academia? Are there more articles on Wikipedia dealing with individual cases of allegations of sexual harassment? If so, does this case belong in a broader article? I rather doubt that, since there really was no official resolution. Both sides got cash settlements and a restoration to the status quo pro ante in regards to theor positions in the university. I'm not really sure what this is about. Sexual harassment? Unfair allegations? Sexual harassmenent/allegations in academia? Or is it just some local story that titilates a small group of people in Vancouver. Time to, as Slim Virgin says on the Rachel Marsden talk page, draw a line under this. Let it sit for a few years and see if anyone cares or remembers, or mention it in context in an over-reaching article on sexual harassment allegations on campus. Stompin' Tom 23:52, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

I've deleted and protected against recreation. As others have said, this was a minor harassment allegation in a university. It was never litigated, it was never established what had happened, and it set no precedents. Let's put this situation out of its misery. SlimVirgin (talk) 00:34, 2 December 2006 (UTC)

Actually, this was a major case which received significant national coverage. I'm very concerned about the precedent set by removing this article, particularly without any substantive discussion having taken place. CJCurrie 05:34, 2 December 2006 (UTC)

CJ, you're mistaken. There was a substantive discussion: an AfD that closed three days ago with 16 votes. The only "delete" votes were from the admin who had previously speedied it and (talk · contribs). That's all I'm going to say here as a) I've already explained at least three times why this article should not be deleted, and b) there's not much point having a discussion via a Discussion page that will be deleted in the near future. Kla'quot 05:50, 2 December 2006 (UTC)
You both conveniently forget to mention the ArbCom case with rulings that specifically apply to these articles, but whatever. - Merzbow 06:53, 2 December 2006 (UTC)
For reference, the relevant ArbCom remedy:
  • Articles which relate to Rachel Marsden, may, when they violate Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons, be reduced to a stub by any user or deleted, together with their talk pages, by any administrator. Removal of poorly sourced negative information or of blocks of grossly unbalanced negative material is not subject to the three revert rule. Such material may be removed without limit. Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Rachel Marsden
I don't think we need to get into an edit war over this. -Will Beback · · 07:26, 2 December 2006 (UTC)

Talk pages[edit]

I would like to delete both the article talk pages because they're full of BLP issues. I'll wait for a bit because people may want to continue this discussion. SlimVirgin (talk) 00:36, 2 December 2006 (UTC)

It might be useful, given the ArbCom decision on this matter, to spell out clearly where the article violated WP:BLP before deleting the talkpage. A quick look around here, the ArbCom decision and at Google's cache of the original article leaves me unclear on the degree of the violation. Note also the Request for Clarification filed to ArbCom. I think an unprotect may be in order. This does not mean that specific sections of either talkpage should not be immediately deleted per WP:BLP. Hornplease 21:49, 3 December 2006 (UTC)

I don't think the talk pages should be deleted. There is carefully researched source material in them useful for rewriting the article and I don't see anything libelous there. I just started looking at this stuff (I'd never heard of Marsden before) but she appears to be a genuine public figure and not exactly the queen of neutrality herself. I can't see the deleted article on WP but the currently mirrored version on doesn't look like an attack article to me. Checking a news database finds tons of stories separate from the harassment case. The National Post said the Canadian conservative party sounded her out about running for an MP seat but then changed their mind because she was too "high profile" and that was over a year ago (National Post, Nov 26 2005, p. A5). If she's too high profile to run for Parliament, I'd say she's a public figure. I don't understand why the article was deleted and I think this place has gotten too deletion happy. 11:52, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Actually, looking a little further at the database hits, a lot (maybe most) of them are to Marsden's own columns. Still, that confirms that the columns themselves are real. Was anyone really doubting this? Some of the reasoning in this dispute by supposedly sensible people is pretty bizarre. WP:RS#Self-published_sources_in_articles_about_themselves makes it pretty clear that Marsden's personal site is an ok source for this basic factual info unless someone is disputing that is actually Marsden's site. 20:28, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Deletion Review[edit]

FYI, this article is currently under Deletion Review: Wikipedia:Deletion_review#Marsden-Donnelly_harassment_case. Kla'quot 01:41, 27 January 2007 (UTC)

Deletion Review Close[edit]

The deletion review close included 1) relisting at AFD and 2) determining that the article should not be at the old title. This specific new title "Simon Fraser University 1997 harassment controversy" is not required. The cutting down that I did is an editorial decision, but it is one that I believe will help the article adhere to WP:BLP and not create undue weight in violation of WP:NPOV. I encourage editors to look for further ways to remove biographical content from this article while focusing it primarily on the encyclopedic aspects of the case, which I believe is primarily the impact on the university. (Sourcing offered in deletion review for the claim that it did have a wider impact on other universities was unconvincing. I did not pay to read the Phi Delta Kappan article, but it was written in 1997 so can't have been a historical retrospective, and other sources I found were merely expecting such impact, as opposed to documenting it.) GRBerry 07:49, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

Not having seen it closing the DRV, this didn't affect the close, and is being offered as an editorial opinion. But this document is closer to my vision for the page than the end of November version that I cut down was. The vision behind cutting down the article was to try and find a path off the cycle of speedy deletion, deletion review, AFD keep. With an example to point at, I can now illustrate that vision better. Specifically:

  1. It is focused on the institutional significance of the controversy, not the people in the controversy or the salacious details thereof. Remember that we are an encyclopedia, and if the controversy is notable we should focus on encyclopedic aspects of the case. Wikipedia is more likely to have a viable and enduring article if we treat this as a sub-article of History of Simon Fraser University than as a sub article of the then student's biography.
  2. It spends time disussing and analyzing the aftermath. This is one of the weaknesses of this article to date; there is not enough of that coverage in our article.
  3. It doesn't even use the names of the principals in discussing the case, which I considered, but found was unimplementable in a quick hatchet job. This would be unusual here, and is not required, but it would be a big help in avoiding WP:BLP issues. It is also why I intentionally unlinked RM from the article, despite the general rule of building the web.

GRBerry 20:59, 4 February 2007 (UTC)

    • I see no precedent for this. The CAUT paper is certainly a good guideline, but we should refrain from creating ad-hoc legislation for this case that is not in keeping with other scandal articles. ~ trialsanderrors 07:38, 5 February 2007 (UTC)

Reversion of book note[edit]

I just reverted the addition of a paragraph about a mention in a book. It was sourced to I attempted to follow the link and found that the information is not available on the portion of the source article that non-subscribers may read. Prior discussion at a source for Wikipedia leans to a conclusion that Salon is considered a sub-par source, and that especially for WP:BLP sensitive articles, such as this one, we prefer not to use it as a sole source for any facts. If the content can be sourced from a more definitively reliable source, we can evaluate its inclusion again. GRBerry 21:36, 27 July 2007 (UTC)

To clarify, the Slate article is an External link on the Marsden article. When I raised the access issue and asked if a free-access site that republished the article was appropriate, I was told the Salon article was not in question, that my suggested alternate source was, and the Salon article and link both remain in use at the Marsden article. I don't know which way is right but both WP articles should be consistent: use or not use the source(s). Canuckle 22:24, 27 July 2007 (UTC)
I have no opinion on the reliability of as a source, but the "partially inspired" connection sounds pretty vague to me. ~ trialsanderrors 08:46, 28 July 2007 (UTC)
I subsequently looked over a few book reviews and didn't see confirmation. So I'm not pushing the point. Neil Boyd does seem like an appropriate subject for a bio though. Canuckle 16:55, 30 July 2007 (UTC)

The following was posted at Wikipedia:Reliable sources/Noticeboard in response to a question I raised there about this removal, despite my request to centralize discussion here. diff GRBerry 14:40, 2 August 2007 (UTC)

I was able to access the link without being a subscriber or registering or even watching an ad. It looks fine to me. For the citing passage, it's just a review of a book. The author is a regular Salon contributor. Do you see any actual BLP concerns for the statements supported by the Salon source? I don't. The book maybe has an inflammatory title in general, but it's not a BLP concern. ←BenB4 05:40, 2 August 2007 (UTC)
The source cited says this:
"Oh god, she is feminism's worst nightmare," said Neil Boyd, an SFU criminology professor who claimed that Marsden harassed him too. Boyd was a vocal critic of SFU's handling of the Donnelly case; his 2004 book "Big Sister: How Extreme Feminism Has Betrayed the Fight for Sexual Equality" was inspired in part by the case. "She used these people, who were only too willing to jump on her bandwagon," said Boyd. "I'm not sure that she ever really presented herself as a feminist as much as she took advantage of an openness to victimization that existed on the university campus at that time."...
By phone, Boyd explained that as he had been a vocal critic of the school's handling of the Donnelly case, he was surprised when Marsden showed up to take one of his classes. The university denied his request to be exempt from teaching her, but agreed that he wouldn't have to evaluate her, since it might be a conflict of interest. Boyd said that partway through the semester, Marsden sent him an e-mail saying that it was going so well, she thought he should be able to grade her. When he refused, he claimed, she began phoning and e-mailing him frequently, asking him out, and "showing up after talks I gave in the community, or after classes, wherever I might be." But Boyd, who has a background in law, kept all her calls and e-mail messages. In 1999, Boyd took these records to the police, who reportedly warned Marsden to stay away from him. According to Boyd, she did.
The passage you removed says:
SFU criminologist Neil Boyd's 2004 book Big Sister: How Extreme Feminism Has Betrayed the Fight for Sexual Equality was partly inspired by these incidents. Boyd had been a vocal critic of the university during the controversy and later had Marsden as one of his students.
Given that those direct quotes by a reputable journalist are substantially more inflammatory than the passage you removed, which really has no BLP issues at all, I would recommend replacing it. ←BenB4 06:22, 2 August 2007 (UTC)

I have removed a comment[1] asking for the Rachel Marsden article to be put back up. The place to make such requests is Wikipedia:Deletion review. This is the talk page for discussing how to improve the article on the Simon Fraser University 1997 harassment controversy and we are strict about keeping the discussion on-topic. Respectfully, Kla’quot (talk | contribs) 00:06, 6 January 2008 (UTC)


The style guidelines on the lead section state that the lead should summarize the content of the article. Currently the case itself is only covered in the lead, and the sections cover only SFU process and consequences. There is a sourced section discussing the case in the version from November 2006 (the "mutual accusations" section only). Before I restore it, I would like to hear opinions on possible WP:BLP concerns. ~ trialsanderrors (talk) 14:13, 16 January 2008 (UTC)

I think the article would be better with a limited rewrite of that section included; I probably went a bit overboard when I cut back the article after DRV2. Try to avoid the salacious details to the extent feasible. We obviously can't copy it, but the summary of the case in the second paragraph of Rick Coe's article for the Canadian Association of University Teachers Bulletin is very much the type of rewrite that I'd be comfortable seeing added. (Incidentally, the 6th paragraph of that source verifies the recently disputed statement that most of the cases did not involve faculty members.) GRBerry 14:57, 16 January 2008 (UTC)

Here is what I think ca be included from the section, with eliminated material marker as [...]. Please redact where needed. ~ trialsanderrors (talk) 15:13, 16 January 2008 (UTC)

In late 1996, Marsden and Donnelly lodged complaints with the Simon Fraser University harassment office against one another over events that occurred in 1994 and 1995. Their accounts of what had happened differed. [...] Her formal complaint to SFU involved "seven allegations of unwanted sexual attention, two allegations of intimidating behaviour and a general charge of psychological sexual harassment."[1] Donnelly, by contrast, denied any romantic relationship with Marsden and claimed that she had in fact been harassing him.[...][2][3][...][4][...][5] [...].

Struck two words for stylistic reasons. No concerns with the rest. Check to see if all the sources are needed to support the new paragraph; there are a lot of sources separated by only elipsis. GRBerry 15:23, 16 January 2008 (UTC)
I don't think we need all those sources, two are certainly enough. I don't know enough about Canadian media to make the call on which ones are the most reliable though. ~ trialsanderrors (talk) 15:30, 16 January 2008 (UTC)

Questioning new source[edit]

The new source is an Opinon piece in the university's student newspaper. Is it really reliable enough to use? GRBerry 17:56, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

  • I don't have a firm opinion on the quality of the source, however as I added some of the content I guess I should respond. The current version of the article has three sentences sourced to the student newspaper. The first is a quote by R.M.. Student newspapers from major universities are generally reliable enough to not seriously botch or make up a quote, and the quote was added by an editor who tends to make edits favourable to R.M., so I think it's safe to assume that R.M. actually said what is quoted. The second and third sentences could be sourced to more reliable publications in addition to (or instead of) the student newspaper. My overall assessment is that the substance of the new passage is appropriate, although another reference could be added to strengthen the perception of appropriateness. Clayoquot (talk | contribs) 06:02, 3 December 2008 (UTC)
  • On personal experience, I have to disagree with you about student newspapers at major universities not botching quotes. I've been quoted in the press four times. Two times they did not get the quote right. One of those two was a student newspaper at a major university. The other was the leading newspaper for the state I lived in at the time. The two times they got it right was that leading newspaper - in one case they had a written copy of my speech to work from, in the other I didn't. GRBerry 15:18, 3 December 2008 (UTC)
  • After 48 hours and no other opinions, this seems to be a grey area, so erring on the side of caution I've removed the passage sourced to The Peak. Clayoquot (talk | contribs) 16:55, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
    • ^ Robert Matas, "SFU report details sex allegations; panel based ruling supporting student’s claim of harassment on balance of probability", The Globe and Mail, 17 July 1997 A4
    • ^ "He says, she says", CTV Television, Inc., W5, November 18, 1997 22:01:50 - 22:15:50 Eastern Time
    • ^ Steve Simmons, 'The Last Word', The Toronto Sun, June 10, 1997.
    • ^ "Fired swim coach to seek arbitration Simon Fraser won’t change its decision after sexual harassment charge countered", The Globe and Mail, 2 June 1997, C11
    • ^ Dave Cunningham,'Simon Fraser University’s sinking credibility', British Columbia Report, June 30, 1997, v.8(44) Je 30′97 pg 31