Recently I learned that the B.C. Human Rights Commission has in effect dismissed the complaints of two individuals against the Dept. of Political Science and the university relating to allegations of individual and systematic discrimination and retaliation.
Many people in our community -- faculty, staff, students, and friends alike -- have been concerned with events relating to allegations against the Dept. of Political Science.
As president of our university, I would like to convey to you and your department the administration's sincere regret that this issue has caused distress in your department, particularly to former department head Don Blake, who persevered and acted honourably in the face of harsh and unproven criticism.
In retrospect, the university has learned a great deal from this experience.
It is clear that in 1994 the ad hoc procedure devised to deal with complaints against your department was inadequate and in part explains the flawed report that emerged and the university's subsequent, inappropriate action.
For this error I apologize on behalf of the university. In spite of this, your department -- in an admirable display of professional conduct -- devoted itself to eliminating practices that could provoke complaints against either perceived or real violations of human rights.
Likewise, to ensure better procedures for dealing with allegations, the university instituted its Policy on Discrimination and Harassment and established an Equity Office charged with the responsibility to administer it.
I believe that the findings of the Commission will help redress any negative perceptions of the department that this episode may have created and will counteract the effect such perceptions may have had on the department's ability to attract students from diverse backgrounds.
This letter places on record my belief that the department's academic reputation and the operational measures it has chosen to implement make it a leading place in Canada to study political science.
Martha C. Piper
Thank you for your letter of Nov. 3. I appreciate your frank recognition and expression of regret for the unfair way the university administration treated members of our department and in particular Prof. Blake who as our head behaved so honourably and professionally in the face of harsh and unproven critcism.
We are gratified that the B.C. Human Rights Commission has established that there was no evidence of either individual or systematic discrimination, harassment or retaliation in the Dept. of Political Science.
Much of the unfairness visited upon the department resulted from the university-sponsored McEwen inquiry and so I am pleased to note that the administration now acknowledges that it produced a flawed report and the university's response to it was inappropriate.
Faculty members, and indeed the university community as a whole, are gratified to know that procedures to deal with complaints have been changed in an attempt to ensure there will not be similar miscarriages of justice in the future.
For our part, we remain committed to building and sustaining a scholarly community where academic freedom, mutual respect and openness to diverse perspectives are guiding principles.
This has been a difficult time for all of us in the department.
Reputations have been damaged, our work and programs have been disrupted and we have had to live under a professional cloud for over three years.
On behalf of my colleagues who were so damaged by this whole episode I accept your sincere apology on behalf of the university.
We want nothing more than to move on -- to continue our teaching and research, to support our excellent students, and to take our place as a leading political science community in Canada.
With the university's full support we will do this.
Prof. R. Kenneth Carty
Head, Political Science Dept.
UBC Reports welcomes letters to the editor on topics relevant to the university community. Letters must be signed and include an address and phone number for verification. Please limit letters, which may be edited for length, style and clarity, to 300 words. Deadline is 10 days before publication date.