Student News on Chan v UBC Racial Discrimination Case

by E Wayne Ross on March 15, 2012

The Managing Editor for the Ubyssey, UBC’s student newspaper, reported in a feature article in this morning’s issue on the Chan v UBC and others racial discrimination case to be heard by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal (BCHRT) this summer. Jonny Wakefield reports:

The threshold to dismiss a complaint at the BCHRT is low. Since 2006, it appears that no cases against UBC have gone to a full judicial hearing. But one professor’s complaint has survived numerous attempts by the university to have it thrown out. The hearing, scheduled this summer, will be one of the very few times that the university has had to deal with a complainant in a public forum.

That discrimination complaint came from Jennifer Chan. Chan is an associate professor in the Faculty of Education. In May 2010, she filed a complaint of racial discrimination with the BCHRT, naming the university and four employees—among them senior administrators—as respondents. Chan, who is Chinese Canadian, alleges she was not selected for a prestigious research chair in part because of her race.

That appointment was to the Lam Research Chair in Multicultural Education. Chan was shortlisted for the chair in October 2009 and when it was announced that another candidate—a white woman—was given the appointment, Chan started to make complaints about bias in the process.

In short, Chan said the search committee of five members from the Faculty of Education broke every hiring rule in the book. It failed to keep any records of its procedures, including how the search was conducted and what criteria were used to determine merit. The committee also failed to consult Chan’s references, which included former Lam Chair holders. The Ubyssey contacted Chan’s references independently and confirmed that they had not been contacted regarding her application.

“A lot of my students would ask for references for their part-time summer jobs,” she said. “This endowment chair is a very prestigious position. Why were external references not contacted? Was it because the candidate was predetermined? Or was it because of some other factor?”

One of those factors, she argues, was her race.

See Ubyssey 15 March 2012 pp. 6-7 for more, and BCHRT for decision to hear the Chan v UBC and others [Beth Haverkamp, David Farrar, Jon Shapiro, Rob Tierney] case.