Volume 92, Issue 67

Wednesday, January 27, 1999

unaffirmative action


Equity clause could discriminate against white males

USC hopes to wheel a good deal with LTC

Police, bar owners discuss safety

Keeping profs at home

Chung stresses student in students' council

Drink up for five-finger discounts


Caught on campus

Equity clause could discriminate against white males

By Dave Yasvinski
Gazette Staff

Anger has arisen within the University of Western Ontario's Faculty Association over proposed equity provisions for its first contract with university administration.

The most contentious principle set to be voted on by faculty members at the next UWOFA meeting involves a method of preferential hiring, stipulating when candidates for university appointment are equivalent, the candidate from an underrepresented group should be recommended.

If formalized in a contract, this would lead to discrimination against white, male graduate students, said psychology professor Clive Seligman and geography professor and UWOFA executive committee member Bill Code.

"I am so pissed off. This is not going to affect the faculty. The people who will get it in the ear are students – your generation is getting this," Code said. He added he was the only executive committee member who voted against the equity principles of those present at their last meeting.

In his 25 years at this university, Code said he has sat on all sorts of promotion and appeals committees and has never seen evidence of a bias in Western's hiring processes. "In my history here, I can honestly say I have never seen an instance of discrimination against women or racial minorities – ever. I would be incensed if it occurred."

However, Aniko Varpalotai, president of the UWOFA, said discrimination exists on many levels, some less visible than others. "There appears to have been discrimination in the past. We intend to prevent it in the future. The current number of women and minority groups indicates we have a ways to go to achieve equity."

But Seligman said data presented to the Senate over the last 10 years actually indicates women have been hired at twice the rate men have. "If it were the case women were being discriminated against perhaps something needs to be done, but when the data shows the opposite, we don't need to do some sort of Draconian thing to the faculty," Seligman said.

This data may be indicative of the fact that not a large number of people hired over that period, Varpalotai said. "Statistics can be skewed quite a bit if you've only hired a few people."

Stephen Lupker, a professor of psychology, said he found most of these principles offensive, partially because they are based in a collective guilt that faculty members have been discriminating. "They're trying to get us to buy into this, but I don't buy that I'm doing anything wrong. I don't buy that my department is doing anything wrong – there is no issue here."

"We're not accusing anyone here of going out of their way to discriminate, but subtle things enter into the decision process," Varpalotai said, stressing white, male graduate students will not be discriminated against. "If a white, male student is the best candidate, the job would still be his – this is not reverse discrimination in any wholesale kind of way."

This is part of the reason for another contentious principle which requires all faculty members on promotion, tenure or appointment committees to attend a mandatory equity information workshop, she added.

Seligman said this principle is insulting. "It says we're so basically systematically bigoted, we have to be straightened out – the arrogance."

However, David Spencer, professor in the faculty of media and information studies, said a principle like this makes sense. "If you're going to be involved in this kind of process, you have to know what the law says."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999