Good equity practices reduce conflicts: report

Reported cases of discrimination and harassment at UBC have declined by more than a third since last year while consultation on equity issues rose by 50 per cent, according to the Equity Office's 1997 annual report.

"We've put a lot of effort into integrating equity into day-to-day activities on campus," says Sharon Kahn, associate vice-president, Equity. "The results suggest that the more we promote good equity practices across campus, the fewer conflicts come into the Equity Office."

In 1997, every one of the 150 cases brought to the Equity Office was handled without recourse to the formal investigation and decision process outlined in UBC's Policy on Discrimination and Harassment.

Many complainants handled the situation themselves after getting advice from the Equity Office, some worked collaboratively with an equity adviser, their administrator and the respondent to find resolution, and some, following discussion, chose not to proceed.

Nearly 290 consultations and a new skills-based workshop gave administrators the information needed to manage specific discrimination and harassment concerns or equity issues on their own.

In 1997, UBC achieved the following workforce representation of groups designated by the Federal Contractors program as being traditionally under-represented: women, 51 per cent; aboriginal people, one per cent; visible minorities, 22 per cent; and persons with disabilities, four per cent. The percentages maintain levels achieved in the previous year.

Data from Human Resources Development Canada show that in all four designated groups UBC compares favorably with other employers who fall under the Employment Equity Act. The Act covers federally regulated private sector employers and crown corporations.

Another employment equity goal aims to redress the imbalance in the advancement of male and female faculty members. Women continue to make up one-third of new appointees to tenure-track positions. UBC's goal is to appoint well-qualified women into 35 per cent of these vacancies.

As well, both the Senate and the Board of Governors endorsed a new educational equity target to more than double the current enrolment of First Nations students to achieve 1,000 enrolments by the year 2000.

Looking back on the year, Kahn points to the increase in the office's educational activities as being an accomplishment she's particularly proud of -- that, and receiving the federal government's 1997 Vision Award for UBC's excellence in implementing equity and fairness in the workplace.

UBC competed for the award against organizations covered under the Employment Equity Act. Other recipients included General Motors and Microsoft.

Equity Office plans for this year include a focus on promoting educational equity, says Kahn.

"We want to ensure every UBC student is provided with educational opportunities that are not limited by irrelevant personal characteristics such as ethnicity, age, gender or physical disability," Kahn says. "We want to make sure all students know they are welcome and included."

The full text of the 1997 Equity Office annual report appeared in the April 16 issue of UBC Reports.