Red River College President Stephanie Forsyth: The troubled history of the executioner of TGCTS

Since October 18th, the Winnipeg Free Press has managed to wedge 3 stories involving newly-arrived RRC president Stephanie Forsyth into their news-hole-challenged broadsheet.

* The first story was a flattering piece about her arrival on the Prairies and her personal mission to save RRC from relevancy in the current job market.

Think of Red River College and maybe you think of future plumbers and electricians and carpenters and computer programmers and medical technicians, and people learning how to build, maintain and fix huge and complex machinery.

When new RRC president Stephanie Forsyth thinks of the college, she thinks about how the school and its students can relate to the planet, and how Red River can attract and keep students now too often unable to benefit from an education.

"I don't consider myself an academic. I'm first and foremost a practitioner," said Forsyth...

* The second was about a gratuitous Selinger government press conference held at RRC on November 18th, with Forsyth photographed in a group conversation with Education Minister Nancy Allan about new 'stay-in school' legislation. As in, 'stay in high school'.

Red River College is not a high school, and is unaffected by the new legislation.

* The third story was actually in a special advertorial insert this past Saturday, in which Forsyth espoused all sorts of values RRC supposedly holds as one of "Manitoba's Top 25 Employers".

Forsyth has been an 'employer' since only Sept 27th; no mention of the man who made RRC a top-notch workplace, former radio journalist and past president Jeff Zabudsky, was made.

" Here, diversity is embraced, success is celebrated and innovation is encouraged. People are proud to work at RRC- it's a community committed to learning...we care about our people. It shows through the kind of environment we have created, one that mirrors the values of our employees, including family, community, sustainability and partnerships"

"It's very satisfying to know that the work we do has such a positive impact all around."

Former employees under Forsyth's command may have a different story to tell about her record as a "practitioner" - not that the Free Press would want to interrupt their fawning coverage with bothersome facts about the new darling of the Advanced Edumacation set.

* In an exit interview in the Terrace (BC) Standard, it was revealed Forsyth's term was marred by controversy.

"SUNLIGHT filters through the windows of Northwest Community College’s newly-opened ($2.5 million) longhouse as its outgoing president, sitting at a table in the otherwise empty main room, addresses the topic head on.

“I’ve heard people in town say this is an Indian college. Nothing could be further from the truth,” says Stephanie Forsyth.

The topic is how Forsyth has changed the college over her decade-long tenure from being a place of primarily white Canadiana to one that also reflects the region’s aboriginal population.

“It wasn’t deliberate. It was done unknowingly and with no idea that we were perpetuating colonialism ... "

Forsyth’s transformation of the college began by giving its buildings aboriginal names...


While Forsyth’s vision for Northwest Community College has been fixed and focused, there have been plenty of challenges and some setbacks.

“Well it wasn’t a disaster but it was disappointing and that was what happened with our plans for a new campus in Prince Rupert,” she said of one of the larger challenges.

The provincial Liberal government, newly elected in 2001, froze all public sector building projects the year after, including the college’s badly needed and long-planned Prince Rupert campus.

“It was a blow to the morale of the staff in Prince Rupert,” remembers Forsyth.
What’s worse is that work had already started.

“We had a big hole in the ground and had to put a fence around it and security on site,” said Forsyth.

The provincial freeze resulted in an 18-month delay and a change in the building’s design.

She’s also had to deal with what seems to be an annual shortfall of money when it comes to the college’s budget.

Her final president’s newsletter to college employees says “the [financial] storm brewing this year is particularly harsh.”

But alienation within the general community and her vision of expansion being scuttled by provincial government funding shortfalls weren't the only issues that found Forsyth on the defensive.

" Forsyth has a reputation for being an exacting employer, demanding much from her senior managers.

“I set a standard and I know it’s high. Perhaps that’s a weakness as I may not make it myself,” she says of her expectations.

... But Forsyth did describe as “unfair” suggestions she is a micromanager, zeroing in on issues and situations.

“With new people it’s critical they get my guidance until they’ve got it,” said Forsyth. “But then I’ll leave you alone and you only need to come to me if you need my help.”

* On November 17th The National Post reported that Forsyth ('an exacting employer') was contacted by the editor of the Winnipeg Free Press, and thereafter Forsyth repeated their complaint without investigating its validity, to an RRC Vice-President.

This set in motion a chain of events that resulted in Forsyth's employees -- who are also appointees to the Kick-FM Executive Committee -- engineering a format change that affected only one program - the very show the Free Press editor Margo Goodhand was "concerned" about (but has never listened to) : The Great Canadian Talk Show.

In this case, Forsyth appears to have reversed her usual practice, and the 6 week resident of Winnipeg gave "guidance" to RRC employees who have sat on the board of Kick-FM for all 4 years of TGCTS airing without one formal, written complaint being filed.

* Also unreported in the Free Press- or anywhere else in local mainstream media - is any mention of Forsyth's aborted relocation to the prestigious Vancouver Community College. She accepted the VCC job, but never actually started it. There is no clue online as to why not.

But the Feb. 6, 2009 press release from NWCC that trumpeted her new position, gives a few clues as to her agenda in now coming to Manitoba.

"President Stephanie Forsyth, Northwest Community College, announced today that she has accepted an offer to assume the Presidency of Vancouver Community College (VCC) effective October 2009.

"... to bring my voice closer to the seat of government and campaign on behalf of all community colleges in British Columbia" "

(FYI: Among those affected by the cancellation were 3 other educational institutions who either sponsored the program and whose work in the community was showcased, or whose journalism and broadcasting students were relying on TGCTS and Kick-FM for workplace experience and practicums. )

* Lastly, Forsyth's previous relationship with "the seat of government" has also gone unreported in the mainstream media in Winnipeg.

So remarkable it was, that the Georgia Straight reserved special attention for Forsyth in the 2004 year-end edition.

Christmas goodies for sycophants, blowhards

By Bill Tieleman,

I love Christmas. I receive a lot of wonderful presents I can't wait to exchange.

— Henny Youngman

As embers of the yule log glow in the chimney and another uneventful year in British Columbia politics comes to a close, it's time to give out a few Political Connections Christmas Awards to the truly deserving. Whether you've been naughty or nice, these little stocking stuffers will bring cheer to the holiday season--though probably not to those receiving them.



Another happy face saying "You're hired" in the Business Council television ads is that of Stephanie Forsyth, president of Northwest Community College in Terrace.

But on September 16, Forsyth was telling a very different story to the provincial select standing committee on finance and government services meeting in Terrace.

"It is my premise, and that of my colleagues in the north, that education and training are preconditions for social and economic development of any community, especially in one as economically depressed as ours," said Forsyth. "The province needs to effectively turn its attention to the social and economic development of the northwest. We have had numerous discussions but, as yet, we have no real, effective, tangent strategies to turn the economy around here."

Wait a minute, Stephanie! You're living in an area that is "economically depressed" and you're on TV talking about people getting hired ? You say there is no real, effective government strategy "to turn the economy around", but you appear in a commercial that says "with B.C.'s economic policies on the right track, employers are preparing for a decade of job growth"?

It sounds like Forsyth herself shouldn't have been hired for the ad.

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