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By Dave Yasvinski
All of the amendments proposed to the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association's equity principles passed overwhelmingly by mail ballot last week.
The motions aroused controversy when brought before the UWOFA membership in February because many faculty members believed the way they were worded would promote preferential hiring at the university.
One of the most contentious equity principles stipulated when applicants for a position at Western are deemed equivalent, the candidate from the lesser represented group would be recommended. Stephen Lupker, a psychology professor, brought forward several amendments changing the language of the principles which he said would prevent any sort of preferential hiring. They all passed with a vote of 60 per cent in favour.
"I was personally disappointed and surprised by the overwhelming result," said Aniko Varpalotai, president of the UWOFA. "I expected some of the amendments to pass but I didn't expect them all to go."
Varpalotai said she is pleased the faculty association can put this issue behind it and the membership will have to wait and see what happens to the principles once negotiations with administration begin.
Lupker said he was still waiting to find out whether the changes to the principles were official but said if they were it would be phenomenal. "The executive has apparently decided to follow the wishes of the association. This sort of heals some of the wounds."
It also provides hope for the future, Lupker added, because if they managed to circumvent this stumbling block they should be able to do the same with stumbling blocks down the road. "We should be able to make some progress in the next little while and get this damned thing wrapped up," he said.
English professor David Bentley said the vote went the way he thought it would. "I was pleased by the number of people who voted. It is a decisive indication of what the faculty wants on the issue," he said. "What's happened shows the association is able to engage in an open debate."
However, others, such as history professor Margaret Kellow, were not as pleased by the ballot's results. "It is surprising and shocking to think there are some people who would mount such a determined resistance to fairness."
Kellow said the language of these principles is much more mild than what is found at most universities in Canada and said there is a small core resistance at Western who oppose equity. "It is not very pleasant to work with people and I'm not speaking of anyone in my department who say that fairness and equity will not come over their dead body."
There also may be problems down the road because the proposals as they read now are not consistent with federal law, Kellow added. "Under the Federal Contractors Program, unless you have some employment equity you are putting your research grants at risk."