In "Gender Equity Needs Balance" (UBC Reports, June 11, 1998), Frank G. Sterle claims UBC has a "gender equity" program that requires half of all professors to be women. Thus, according to Mr. Sterle, "half of all post-secondary spaces [should] be reserved for men/boys."
In actuality, UBC does not have a "gender equity" program. Rather it has an employment equity program, and contrary to Mr. Sterle, this program was not forced on UBC by "intense left-wing elements in our educational institutions and media" but rather mandated by law in 1986 by a Conservative federal government.
UBC's employment equity program does not require that 50 per cent of faculty be female. Instead, through educational workshops and consultations, the Equity Office encourages departments to achieve a gender representation that parallels the gender representation in the pool of qualified applicants for specific job openings.
University Policies 2 and 20 both require that the equity program be consistent with the merit principle. The program achieves consistency by requiring university departments to strive to attract as many qualified applicants as possible and to choose the most meritorious among them, irrespective of gender. Accordingly, the program does not embrace "alternate standards" of the sort that Canadians associate with affirmative action in the United States.
Mr. Sterle argues that if "gender equity" rules hiring at UBC, then it also should rule UBC's admissions policy. Were such the case, UBC would deny admission to better-qualified students in order to grant admission to less well-qualified students, thereby abandoning the University's long-standing policy of admitting on the basis of merit.
I believe UBC should continue to hire new faculty and admit new students according to the merit principle.
Sharon E. Kahn
Assoc. Vice-President, Equity