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Vancouver kids theatre cuts ties with artistic director after bullying, harassment allegations

Vancouver kids theatre cuts ties with artistic director after bullying, harassment allegationsA Vancouver theatre company specializing in productions for children has cut ties with its artistic director and is promising other changes following allegations of a toxic work environment by dozens of former staff and crew.More than sixty people wrote letters calling out the Carousel Theatre for Young People  — a popular theatre group known for its productions of Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh — for being an abusive place to work, characterized by a culture of bullying and harassment perpetuated by some of its leaders.Facing backlash on social media and an online petition calling for improved working conditions, the company says it "mutually agreed to part ways" with its artistic director Carole Higgins. It's also pledged to restructure its leadership team."We will be working to rebuild a theatre that is inclusive, creates opportunity, and provides a safe place for everyone," said the company in an official statement posted to its website.Carousel's productions are geared toward young children to help develop emotional literacy.Toxic work environmentWorkers began publicly voicing their experiences at the theatre company after Carousel issued a statement speaking out against racism and oppression amid the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement.In a public Facebook post, BIPOC actor Kaitlyn Yott detailed her experience on a production of Peter Pan where she says she was pressured into performing stunts and ignored when she would voice concerns over her safety. She said her requests to bring in a stunt director were denied."...I ended up severely injured in both of my knees halfway through the run. I was barely able to walk and I was in excruciating amounts of pain," she wrote.Since then, a petition calling on the company to improve its working conditions and leadership has generated more than 400 signatures.Former Carousel contract workers Dani Fecko and Kayla Dunbar have been urging ex-staff and contractors who were bullied or harassed to speak out.More than 60 people have written letters to Carousel's board detailing negative experiences at the company, Fecko said."We would be used against each other," said Fecko. "Inevitably, in every production, there would be one staff member or one artist that was the scapegoat for everything, and would be pulled out and bullied. There was a lot of bad mouthing of each other to each other behind closed doors. There was a lot of manipulation."Fecko says many contract workers were afraid to voice their concerns to management out of fear of not being hired back."I always knew that was happening, I just never knew how bad it was," she added.Calling for changeDunbar and Fecko say they aren't satisfied with Carousel's statement, noting that there is no specific apology within it."There's still a lot of work to do and it is very frustrating that there hasn't been accountability taken by the board, or by Carole," said Dunbar. "The public hasn't been told how [Carousel] is moving forward."The pair are scheduled to meet with the Carousel board president on Wednesday to discuss how to create a more inclusive work environment. They're are calling for the theatre to provide a healing space for those who have endured bullying."That means bringing in facilitators and mental health support for people to come and heal and get used to being in that space again in a safe way," said Fecko.Fecko says the organization remains a cornerstone for Vancouver's artistic community, and plays a crucial role getting young children acquainted with theatre. The pair are also calling for a committee of artists and industry leaders to guide the theatre going forward."We want that work to keep going ... it's a vital piece of this community," she said.CBC News tried to contact artistic director Carole Higgins on Sunday, but has yet to hear back from her.

Alberta universities plan to do away with dormitory residences during COVID-19 pandemic

Alberta universities plan to do away with dormitory residences during COVID-19 pandemicFirst-year University of Calgary students who were destined for dormitory-style residences will now be moved to apartment-style residences to allow for better physical distancing — but the move comes with a price increase of $3,000.The university's website says it has chosen not to use traditional dormitory-style residences this fall because of the shared washroom facilities, and that first-year student communities would be established in buildings with two and three-bedroom suites."You can expect a rate increase of about $3,000 for the academic year, compared to a traditional double room," the website reads. It adds a meal plan is not included."We understand this may cause some challenges. However, the new room assignments are in place to maintain everyone's health and safety while staying with us."Despite the move, it remains mandatory for first-year students living in residence at the U of C to purchase a meal plan.Assad Ali Bik, student union (SU) vice-president of student life, said the increase in cost to students is why the SU is advocating for emergency funding — especially for first-year students.The U of C did not make anyone available for an interview but asked CBC News to check back for updates in July."Maintaining the safety of students living in residence is a priority of the University of Calgary," the university said in a statement."Residence Services is currently exploring various options to house students, including residence life programming, adhering to [the] Alberta government's re-opening rules and guidelines."Esther Nwafor has lived in multiple U of C residences and moved out in June after experiencing persistent internet issues brought on by a shortage of IT staffing.She said life in residence has become lonely during the pandemic. "I would probably not stay in residence if I was a first-year student right now," she said.Nwafor said higher costs may make staying in residence prohibitive. In addition, physical distancing will make it more difficult to build community."Residence did help me make some of my friends that I still have today," she said. Other Alberta universities are also making changes to their residences for the fall in case COVID-19 restrictions remain in place. Here's what you can expect at some of the province's post-secondary institutions.Move inThe University of Lethbridge, University of Alberta and Mount Royal University said they won't have their usual one-day move-in process."Rather than focusing all of our move on a single day we're looking at, can we spread it out over a period of time to allow them to arrive with one or two family members and set up," said Katherine Huising, associate vice-president of ancillary services with the U of A.This is because schools must adhere to Alberta's guidelines for reopening post-secondaries and residences."So social distancing, doing all of the health checks prior to entry, students that are coming from distance and under the Alberta government guidelines are required to self isolate — we will work to facilitate that process as well," said Jim Booth, executive director of ancillary services at the U of L.In many cases students will be assigned a specific time slot to move in."Because we want to make sure we're doing it in such a way that that students aren't crowding spaces [like elevators and stairwells]," said Mark Keller, director of residence services at MRU.No more dorm lifeThe University of Alberta and the University of Lethbridge will also either close or significantly reduce the capacity in dormitory style residences this fall for the same reasons as the U of C.Students in Edmonton and Lethbridge won't see any price increases.Booth said prices quoted as early as November to students are the prices U of L students can expect."We believe that the students have enough anxiety in figuring out how they're going to do classes which have pivoted online and if they're moving away from home in this very very difficult and high anxiety time," he said."The last thing we want to do is throw anything additional anxiety at them. So we've said the price is the price."The U of A agrees.The rates being charged for September 2020 were approved by the board of governors and presented to students in November, Huising said."Those rates have been set and there will not be an impact on students."At the U of L, Booth said students will now live in apartment-style residences, with their own cooking faciliites and rooms but a shared living room and kitchen space.Both schools say that at most, two students will share a bathroom.Mount Royal University does not offer dormitory style residences, but said they are reducing capacity in their apartment style units."We are now going to be housing two people in our four bedroom units and one person in our two bedroom units just to make them safer," said Keller. "And, they don't have to share a bathroom which is good."In most cases, the schools said students will not be permitted to have visitors in residence for the time being."Unless there's an extraordinary circumstance which we will facilitate for those particular cases," said Booth. "But otherwise it's not just anybody coming and going. It will be very controlled."He said students can also expect some help with cleaning."We will kind of impose ourselves on the students a little bit because we're gonna come in and we're going to make sure that we wipe down bathrooms and kitchens," he said.Food servicesThe University of Alberta said their food services will remain open, but students should not be expecting the bustle of a cafeteria or the ability to eat at tables with their peers."They go into the dining hall where we have takeaway containers. They make their selections and they're served by the staff there and then they take their containers back to their room," said Huising, adding that the process is being tested over the summer in preparation for fall.Usually first-year students at the U of L living in University Hall, Kainai house or Piikani House are automatically enrolled in a dining plan, with no opt-out option, but this year that will not be required as all students will have access to their own cooking facilities.MRU does not offer meal plans.When it comes to other shared spaces in residences, the schools say they will all be enhancing cleaning and sanitization, as well as placing a number of hand-sanitization stations at entrances.Some shared spaces at the residences will be closed for now."We do have some spaces and we'll be monitoring those to see how they're being used will but we will likely take the furniture out of most of them to keep students from gathering," said Keller."We do have laundry rooms ... and we'll be taping off some of the machines so that the capacity in those rooms is less."At the U of L, students will be required to wear masks when in shared spaces, including hallways. They'll also be required to wear a mask within their apartments if they can't ensure two-metre spacing.Booth said each student living in residence will be provided with at least three reusable masks.Students will also get a coloured lanyards to denote which residence they belong to."This is in addition to their ID card, so that we can tell at a glance that a student belongs in a specific residence unit so we can create bubbles," he said, adding that these rules are subject to change depending on government recommendations.The universities say that while they know these changes are not ideal, campus officials will be doing everything they can to welcome students and build community.Student isolation spacesWith many students potentially travelling from other countries or provinces, and knowing some students may get sick while in student housing, the schools said they've set aside spaces for isolation.At MRU, Kellery said they've got a plan in place to support those students."And make sure they're being communicated with and if they need anything that it's being brought to them and left outside their door," he said.Similar steps have been taken at the U of A and the U of L."We have flex up to about 56 beds but we're putting aside initially 20 beds on standby," said Booth. Those beds will be available for students required to isolate upon arrival, or for any students who may develop COVID-19 symptoms during the year."We will ensure we can take the individual and isolate them into a unit where they can undergo 10 to 14 days isolation," he said.

Monday 13th of July 2020 11:14:33

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