Volume 91, Issue 88
Tuesday, March 17, 1998
UBC prof faces human rights tribunal this week
By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
Both the University of British Columbia and psychology professor Don Dutton are facing allegations of sexual harassment by a former student in a B.C. human rights tribunal this week.
The two-week hearing expected to end by Friday will hear evidence from plaintiff Fariba Mahmoodi who claims Dutton, an expert on domestic abuse, promised to help her get into graduate school if she had sex with him, said counsel for the complaintant Clea Parfitt.
She alleges this proposal was offered to her during an evening at Dutton's home on Dec. 30, 1994 when Mahmoodi was invited to discuss a research project.
"Complaints made against Dutton and UBC were made in that he offered to help her in admission to graduate school and in the same meeting engaged in sexual contact some of which was nonconsentual," Parfitt said.
The complaint lodged against the university is in regard to a report that had been filed through the equity office which was abandoned in 1995 in favour of an investigation by the dean of arts. "Our argument is that this decision wasn't made independently."
Parfitt said the university found none of Mahmoodi's evidence proved anything but did find Dutton was somewhat out of turn which resulted in a note of discipline in his file.
Spokesperson for UBC Paula Martin said the university does not want to comment since their position is being represented at the hearing. "We're just letting it go through the process," she said.
Heinz Klatt, Western psychology professor and expert on sexual harassment cases, said sexual harassment allegations must be dealt with delicately where the rights of both parties as well as the process must be respected.
"Most universities in Canada are on record in having judged in favour of a woman who lied and ruined a man's life," said Klatt.
Western's equity office tries to educate people on the issue of sexual harassment in a variety of ways including workshops and publications, said director Bill Wilkinson. "Our department has a responsibility to find ways to prevent discrimination at school and in the workplace."
Mahmoodi is suing both parties under the Human Rights Code of discrimination based on sex. She is looking for compensation of losses incurred during the year in which the alleged harassment took place as well as the following year including costs of tuition and future counselling because she could not work claiming emotional strain.
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