Michael Kydd’s privacy was intact until he held a press conference on Jan. 8, 2015 to out himself. Earlier that day, activist Glen Canning had Tweeted a redacted photo of Kydd, obscuring his genitals and not sharing his name.
It was a nude picture that Kydd had sent an adult student and mother of four. Kydd says Tarrah McPherson asked for it, and that they had exchanged “intimate” pictures. She says she never sent him a so-called “crotch shot” and never asked Kydd for a nude photograph. She says that Kydd initiated the exchange of photos with a request but had not reciprocated when she sent him less explicit photos. On the day he sent the “dick pic,” she reminded him that she went first last time, but it was Kydd who made the leap to full-on nude.
At his press conference, Kydd offered his resignation to MSVU, but the university didn’t accept it and, a week later, they fired him for breaching their code of conduct. When professors engage in sexual activity with students, even allegedly consensual sexual activity, they must report it to remove the possibility of academic bias.
One blogger called Mount Saint Vincent University President Ramona Lumpkin a “prissy” and Frank Magazine ran the headline “Stop the presses! Two grownups have consensual sex!” expressing mock shock that a university prof and a student were sleeping together.
That alone was not the problem.
At his news conference, Kydd said that he “pro-rated” the mark for McPherson’s final exam, which she did not write. He said he had done this for other students, so it did not amount to preferential treatment.
However, in an email Kydd sent to her on Dec. 10, 2014, he wrote she had earned 63.75 per cent out of 80 going into the final exam. When you calculate that, it is 79.7 per cent, which is equivalent to an A- at MSVU. If, as he said, he pro-rated her mark for the final exam based on her course mark to that point, she should have received an A- for the course.
In an email sent on Dec. 20, 2014, Kydd informed her that her mark in the course was an A. Within an hour, he sent her the nude picture and sent her another email saying “I need my cock sucked! Badly!”
Kydd gave McPherson a mark she had not earned academically. The student asked the university to strike it from her transcript and she received a simple “pass” for the course.
That should have been the end of it, but Kydd, after saying all the right things in January 2015, started his woe-is-me campaign in which he has continuously suggested he is a victim of public shaming. No one named him until he accepted responsibility for his mistake. “It’s my mistake, and mine alone,” he said at his news conference. “I made a serious error in judgment. … I expect my career to be ruined.”
In the two years since he was fired, he has been trying to tell anyone who would listen that the shaming has ruined his career. Kydd has complained about being “unemployable” but voluntarily resigned as president of Merit Contractors, even though his conduct at the university did not affect his employment there.
In January 2017, he filed a lawsuit against the student, the university, Bell Media Inc., and Twitter, seeking a million dollars in damages.
McPherson kept her silence, until now. In the vacuum, the narrative has twisted to the point that National Post columnist Christie Blatchford presents Kydd as the victim of a vindictive woman.
The police didn’t lay charges, but that doesn’t mean McPherson was lying. It means the police, and/or the Crown, didn’t think there was enough evidence to lay a charge. She says it was not a “romantic relationship” as Kydd called it in his lawsuit.
Blatchford slags McPherson for being a poor student in the pre-Kydd era, writing that “her previous, pre-Kydd track record of not completing courses or failing to take exams continued” after the scandal. Is she suggesting the student slept with the prof to boost her grades?
Only Blatchford knows, but had she bothered to use Google, she could have easily learned McPherson made the dean’s list in her first full year at MSVU and won an academic scholarship. A bare minimum of effort, such as calling her, might have gotten a copy of the transcript which reveals her 3.7 GPA. Instead of digging up facts, Blatchford grinds her ax.
Blatchford also puts Kydd on a pedestal, writing that he “always and quickly admitted he had breached the school’s code of conduct” … except that’s not true.
For two months before Kydd’s confession, McPherson had wanted to report what was going on and he told her not to, suggesting via text she could get kicked out of the university.
In a text sent Dec. 30, 2014, Kydd said to McPherson: “Coming clean ruins my career and probably gets you tossed from the university. Not to mention the media scrutiny that would come with it because of my public position. So no, coming clean does not help either of us.”
This is 10 days before Canning tweeted the photograph. In the meantime, McPherson met with the university’s harassment coordinator and president. Feeling they were taking a “wait and see” approach, she asked Canning for help.
Kydd’s lawsuit hinges on whether McPherson coerced Canning to publish the picture. She says she did not and that she asked Canning to take it down as soon as she realized he had posted it. Canning did not respond to an interview request, but tweeted on Jan. 8, 2015 that the “image was removed upon request.”
Kydd was not fired for sending McPherson a nude picture. He was fired for giving her an A she didn’t earn. If he has been shamed at all, it’s for that.
That’s what makes this lawsuit troubling. Kydd, who accepted responsibility for his actions at the time, is now trying to blame a single mother of four for the fallout.
While Blatchford’s column spurred men’s rights advocates to donate heartily to Kydd’s cause and quadrupled the pledges on his GoFundMe page, McPherson was scraping together meagre resources to file her defence.
Few people know her side of the story and the National Post refused to print it when offered a chance. (I pitched them a story, and sexual-assault advocate Elizabeth Sheehy of the University of Ottawa penned an op-ed that they refused to print.) If she is unable to get a lawyer to fight this lawsuit, it will be a terrible injustice.
Editor’s note: Tarrah McPherson originally requested anonymity as a condition of sharing her side of the story. Since this column went to press, McPherson has served a notice of libel against The National Post and Christie Blatchford. In that notice, McPherson’s lawyer, Brian Radnoff of Lerners LLP in Toronto, alleges numerous factual errors in Blatchford’s column. McPherson has now rescinded her request for anonymity. “I did not choose to name anyone publicly and I have fought for my right to privacy. However, now I have decided to sacrifice my privacy and attach my name to a Notice of Libel served on the National Post and Christie Blatchford.” Halifax Magazine has re-edited the online version of this column to reflect the change.