TUEFRT: A Former First Responder Responds

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

In Arthur’s last issue, the piece on the Trent University Emergency First Response Team (TUEFRT) caught the attention of a multitude of readers. Some of the feedback received expressed incredulity and posed many questions of the group, others expressed concern over the veracity of the claims and accounts. The article encouraged another ex-member of TUEFRT to speak about their experiences as a First Responder and the subsequent fall out that ensued. For privacy and safety reasons, they will be referred to as Morgan instead of their given name. This is an open discussion and inquiry into TUEFRT and those who would like to share their experiences with the team, either as members or students who use or have used their services, as well as the TUEFRT team themselves are welcome to engage in respectful discussion.

When Morgan joined the TUEFRT team in September of 2015, she was thrilled to be part of a group of students passionate about helping others. As a new Trent student, and after recently undergoing and successfully passing the TUEFRT tryouts, she was excited to belong to a group that she believed would make transition into life as a university student a bit easier. After only a year on the team, she remembers being suddenly approached by the Head of Security and one other board member with a long list of transgressions she had been accused of. Obviously shocked, she refused to sign the dotted line that signed would bind her to the traits that her fellow team members had crafted for her. Before this covert meeting, she had never been approached with so much as a warning or word of caution, let alone had any run-ins with her team members.

“It was like I was a criminal and I was being accused of these things,” she said.

Up until that point, Morgan remembers her year on the TUEFRT team as exciting and engaging, but casting her memory back, she remembers some of the veiled friction between her other members of the group. She notes that a majority of these student-volunteers were Nursing and science majors, with a push to keep the group somewhat exclusive to students in those programs. From the onset, Morgan felt like an outsider in a group that promoted team work and team building. The group that advertised itself as open to all students seemed to be, by practice, a carefully selected in-group or clique that recognized their own.

“They got rid of anyone who wasn’t a Nursing or science student early on.”

Morgan noted that anyone outside of their preferred group seemed to slowly leave or be kicked off the team. It only became apparent that members of the group no longer wanted her on the team when she was approached with the never before seen list of misdemeanours. She cannot recall any particular incident that may have led to her team members’ dislike of her, other than a vague feeling of distrust they seemed to have towards her. She can only think of one possible cause: “I wanted to be an exec. I was genuinely interested in that, so I would go to their meetings, but I think they thought I wanted to know too much or felt like their positions were threatened. I’m not sure.”

Knowing she has done nothing to violate the TUEFRT rules, she refuses to sign anything until a proper investigation is conducted. When she is approached again, she’s given the results of the investigation: inconclusive. Naturally, she is flabbergasted. Of the things she was accused of, abusing and mishandling keys was one of the most offensive. These key fobs were an important part of the TUEFRT uniform and gave members access to a variety to buildings and access points on campus – designed to be used in emergency situations. Along with the signed and dated key log members had to use, there were simple ways to check the activity of each key, meaning the investigation should have been rather straightforward. Despite admitting there was no concrete evidence any of the items on the list had occurred, Morgan was effectively kicked off the team and ‘blacklisted’ for her unconfirmed transgressions.

The consequent fall out and struggle to appeal the decision and become a part of TUEFRT once again made a profoundly negative impact on Morgan. She recalls a meeting with the Head of Security and one of the board members of TUEFRT, where she was crying profusely, stating “it was very obvious that my mental health was in shambles.” His only response was “I’m obligated to ask if I need to be concerned about your mental health right now.”

The team that she not so long ago dedicated more than 18 hours a week to had suddenly become callous and uncaring of even her mental well-being, bound only by legal obligations meant to reduce liability. After effectively being blacklisted, and suddenly ostracized by people she was once cooped up in an office for 10 hours at a time, her anxiety about running into her former team members became a daily fear when attending classes in the same building as their headquarters. Soon enough, her education suffered for it.

“I failed every single one of my courses that semester,” Morgan recalled.

After dedicating an entire year to a team and cause she was once very passionate about, she realized one thing: “They are aware that they can give you the world, and take it away.”

For a newly assimilating student, then only 18, being a member of TUEFRT gave her many things. She had a sense of community and belonging among people who she trained alongside, and often spent long hours with. Each overnight or weekend shift she worked also ensured that at least one or two of her meals for the day were taken care of. More importantly was the psychological aspect to being on the team. She remembers having other team members mention how grateful she ought to be to have made the team, hand-picked from over 70 different candidates.

All these experiences and memories that had become a nearly forgotten part of Morgan’s life came rushing back with vivacity, reminding her of the strain and stress she went through as a first-year student. Reading the very same things happen to others, made her consider that her situation may not have been a one-off instance of badly mismanaged disagreement. It wasn’t until she saw another now-former member of TUEFRT weeping that she remembered herself in the same spot, four years ago.

“I had forgotten how bad it was.”