Equity Committee Update #5

For the Equity Committee’s work in the fall of 2015, please see Equity Updates 1-4 on the department website. At the end of the first term’s work we realized that it was no longer possible for us to fulfill our original mandate of drafting guidelines.  At the same time, the scope of our work had shifted and expanded considerably, as the previous updates have suggested. Given that the university’s policies around equity, sexual assault, and harassment were all undergoing revision, we decided to put our own work drafting guidelines on hold until we had more clarity and resources available to us. We were also aware that Paula Butler of Butler Workplace Solutions (http://www.butlerworkplacesolutions.com/aos.html) had been asked to conduct a review of UBC’s response to the recent concerns over sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus, and that Sally Campbell (http://www.sallycampbellmediator.ca/) had been asked by the Dean of Arts Office to facilitate further conversations in the History Department.

We heard very diverse responses both to the Butler Report and to Sally Campbell’s work in the department.  Although some members of the department felt that both contributions were helpful, many others felt that those interventions had in fact made the situation worse.  There was widespread disappointment that Sally Campbell had not been asked specifically to include graduate students in her consultations.  The Equity Committee discussed a number of possible responses and initiatives, but it quickly became clear that these “top-down” initiatives were not likely to succeed.  Rather than risk harm in a situation where tensions were high and conflicts and distrust seemed inevitable we moved to working behind the scenes, intervening where we could and planning for future activities. 

We continue to welcome suggestions and initiatives from all members of the history community and, where we can, will provide resources and other kinds of support to help move them forward.  If groups or individuals have a project or an event that they would like to sponsor and organize, please contact Joy Dixon at joy.dixon@ubc.ca (until 30 June). 

Moving forward, we note that significant parts of the University’s policy dealing with equity issues are now in the process of being revised. Recently proposed provincial legislation (Bill 23) will, if passed, also require all publicly-funded universities to have sexual misconduct policies, which are now in development. Tina Loo, as Head of the Department, has suggested that it makes sense for us to wait for some further clarity before proceeding to draft guidelines for how concerns about equity issues will be dealt with at the Department level. Once we have that clarity - and the resources from the University necessary to support that work – the committee will be reinstated. At this point we have no way of knowing what structures may be mandated by the newly revised university policy and by provincial legislation. If appropriate, the Equity Officer will also be reinstated. Regardless of whether there is an Equity Officer in place, Department Heads are ultimately responsible for dealing with equity matters, and any concerns should be directed to the Department Head.

Recommendations for Future Work:

1. We strongly urge the department and its individual members to support efforts to implement the recommendations of the March 28, 2014 report by the UBC President’s Task Force on Gender-Based Violence and Aboriginal Stereotypes (Transforming UBC and Developing a Culture of Equality and Accountability: Confronting Rape Culture and Colonialist Violence). The report itself can be found here: https://equity2.sites.olt.ubc.ca/files/2014/05/Task-Force-on-IGBVAS-Final-Report-March-28-2014.pdf

2. We strongly urge the department to consider booking the GRJJ’s Trans* Literacies Workshop in the fall, to explore how we as a department can develop “safer, more trans*-inclusive pedagogical practices in [our] classrooms.” See http://grsj.arts.ubc.ca/get-involved/promoting-trans-literacies/ for more information.

3. We recommend that, once the relevant policies have been established at the university level and in line with whatever structures are mandated by those policies, the Equity Committee (with appropriate representation from all constituencies in the department) and an Equity Officer be reinstated, properly resourced, and given a clearly-defined mandate.