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Faculty amendments in the mail
By Dave Yasvinski
University of Western Ontario Faculty Association members voted yesterday to send to a mail ballot one of the biggest principles they must vote on this year.
The principle in question concerns how the faculty association would like to see equity issues formalized in their first contract with university administration. Stephen Lupker, a professor of psychology, proposed six amendments to the current equity principle which faculty members decided would require time to consider.
"What I really expected and hoped to accomplish was to clarify the issues and get the motions on the table. I can't promise I've figured out everything but I think I've managed to isolate what most people are upset about," Lupker said.
The amendments were partly in reaction to the concerns of some faculty members, who believe the principle as it is currently expressed will lead to the discrimination of white male graduate students. The principle proposes that if candidates for appointment are equivalent, the one from an underrepresented group would be chosen.
"Given this has been so contentious, we need to have as many people participating as possible," said Aniko Varpalotai, president of the UWOFA. "The negotiating team and the executive need to be guided on this one."
Archie Young, an English professor, said the problem with the equity issue is it is buried in a long piece of prose. "I think professor Lupker's proposal has the advantage of sending out the issue and letting us discuss it. The executive has not separated out what is really at issue."
Two of Lupker's amendments were immediately adopted as friendly amendments. Of note amongst the remaining four was one which would make equity workshops optional instead of mandatory and one which would prohibit the use of preferential hiring to achieve the university's equity goals. "Hiring on the basis of group membership is wrong, no matter how you do it," Lupker said.
Anthropology professor Regna Darnell said despite the proposed amendments she still felt the equity workshops should be required. "There really is a problem we need to address. When one is a member of a privileged majority as we are, we tend to forget about folks who are not in the same position. It doesn't hurt us to be reminded that there is some diversity out there."
Varpalotai said the executive would have to examine a few of the amendments because they could be contradictory to the Federal Contractors Program, which the university is obliged to follow in order to receive funding.
However, Lupker said he was not concerned about this possibility because the program would not affect what his amendments propose. "I've got all the language for the Federal Contracting Program it mandates nothing."
The mail ballot will likely be sent out to faculty members by next week and the results should be known in time for the UWOFA's March 2 meeting, Varpalotai said.