An associate professor of education at UBC believes that the university discriminated against her because of her race.
Jennifer Chan, a Canadian of Chinese descent, claims that the denial of her application for the prestigious David Lam Chair in Multicultural Education in the faculty of education forms part of a pattern of discrimination against her.
“There was systemic racism all throughout my career,” Chan told the Straight in a phone interview today (April 19).
Her allegation has not been proven in court or at the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
Chan, who has been with UBC since 2001, first as a postdoctoral fellow in the political science department, will get the opportunity to prove her allegations when the tribunal finally starts a hearing on the complaint she filed against UBC and four members of its faculty and staff on May 10, 2010.
In December last year, the tribunal granted an application by the university to defer a hearing on the complaint until UBC’s Equity Office completed proceedings on an internal complaint filed by Chan on December 15, 2009.
Last month, according to Chan, the university dismissed her internal complaint.
The case is an offshoot of the associate professor’s application for a three-year appointment to the David Lam Chair in Multicultural Education. She was the only minority candidate. A Caucasian candidate was eventually chosen for the post.
According to Chan, who joined the faculty of education in 2003, this wasn’t the first time that she was the subject of discrimination.
In a media release, she noted that she had been turned down twice for the Killam Teaching Award in 2008 and 2009 “without explanation despite clearly meeting merit requirements”.
“All 40 winners of the Killam Teaching Award in the UBC Faculty of Education in the past 20 years have been Caucasian,” she stated in the release.
Chan also said in the release that she was overlooked in her tenure and promotion schedule. She added that “tenure was put in jeopardy by an accusation that was later proved unfounded”.
Speaking by phone, Chan made an allegation that it is ironic that UBC’s declared commitment to multiculturalism isn’t fully reflected in its hiring policies.
“In fact, the UBC president has a strategic plan on diversity and equity,” Chan said. “On the ground we still know that visible minority faculty are under-represented, heavily so.”
Scott Macrae, spokesperson for UBC, issued the following statement today:
In response to a press release issued by Dr. Jennifer Chan dated April 19, 2011, the University confirms that it is committed to providing fairness and equity in its workplaces. UBC takes complaints of discrimination extremely seriously and has processes, including a Discrimination and Harassment Policy (http://www.universitycounsel.ubc.ca/files/2010/09/policy3.pdf), to address such complaints.
In regards to this particular complaint, the University has thoroughly and exhaustively investigated the allegations (including both an investigation and a review conducted by human rights experts external to the University). Both processes found no discrimination and the University has accepted those conclusions.
The University’s internal processes have been completed. The matter is now before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. The University is participating fully in that process as it moves forward. As this is an employee matter and the subject of litigation, the University is not at liberty to comment further.