Columbia College: A Trailblazer in Providing a Safe & Transparent Environment
By Sonia West
The community and culture of Columbia College are ones where safety and transparency are paramount. Matt Wadsworth is the Principal of Columbia College. Drishti Magazine discussed the recent College decision to sign a pledge against the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs).
An NDA, or Non-Disclosure Agreement, is a legal contract that outlines confidential information that parties agree not to disclose to others to protect sensitive information.
In December 2023the Columbia College Board, reviewed and approved a recommendation from College Society members to sign a pledge vowing not to use non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs, in cases of sexual harassment, abuse, misconduct, or other forms of harassment and bullying. By doing so, Columbia College stands together with the University of King’s College and Acadia University to end the use of NDAs to silence victims of abuse in Canada.
This pledge commitment is the first in BC and the third in Canada.
The Can’t Buy My Silence Campaign is an anti-NDA measure started in 2021 by Zelda Perkins in the UK and Professor Julie Macfarlane, professor emeritus of law at the University of Windsor in Canada.
Columbia College instructor Susan Macrae brought forward this initiative, who Matt Wadsworth credits. “She is passionate about the truth and fairness and providing a safe student environment. She’s passionate about that, part of this organization, and brought it forward,” Wadsworth says.
The college presented the proposal to ban NDAs to the Columbia College Society at their meeting in November to create a better college community where peace of mind and a tranquil environment reign.
“In the discussion at the meeting attended by one hundred and twenty members of our society, support for this proposal was widespread. The Board decided to make this part of our identity,” Wadsworth says in a peaceful tone.
Signing the pledge in December, the college will cultivate a sense of security and a safe community. “NDAs create the potential for an unsafe or the perception of a perilous environment. They can harm survivors in their ability to heal after terrible things happen. Thus, we are commtted to make sure they do not happen.”
Columbia’s commitment is to build a paradigmatic college community, and Wadsworth hopes other institutions will pursue the same across Canada.
Columbia College is a registered charity whose mission is to prepare students to complete four-year degrees. It works to build the most complete set of students with support in that process.
“It is the commitment of Columbia College to ensure a safe environment for our faculty, staff, and students,” Wadsworth declares. “We have multiple mental health counselors on campus. Our 24-hour support is through partners for struggling people, especially from a mental health perspective, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We also have nurses on campus every day, and our mental health counselors have received comprehensive training to address the needs of our students.”
Columbia College partners with multiple charities across the Lower Mainland by placing students at these organizations to build student experience in the charitable sector. The college pays the student’s wages for the duration of the placement.”
A message to our readers from Matt Wadsworth:
“If there are any charitable organizations that focus on matters related to this article, we would be interested in supporting your initiatives through this kind of partnership so we can play a positive role in helping build momentum for similar projects in our community.”
Charitable organizations should reach out to the college if interested.