August 27, 1999

Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship

Press Release

Human Rights Complaint Filed Against Wilfrid Laurier University

The Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship (SAFS) announces that a complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Commission has been lodged against Wilfrid Laurier University. The complaint, initiated by SAFS board member, Clive Seligman, Ph.D., asserts that Wilfrid Laurier University, in advertising a faculty position in developmental psychology that was reserved for women only, violated the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Wilfrid Laurier University's declared intention to exclude men from consideration for the advertised faculty position specifically violated Section 5 (1) of the Code, that states "Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to employment without discrimination because of ... sex..."

Wilfrid Laurier University justifies its discrimination against men by appealing to Section 14 (1) of the Code, which allows "a special program designed to relieve hardship or economic disadvantage or to assist disadvantaged persons or groups to achieve...equal opportunity..." The onus is, thus, on Wilfrid Laurier University to show that female applicants for academic positions have suffered hardship, economic disadvantage, or require assistance to achieve equal opportunity.

The facts of the matter are: 1) Wilfrid Laurier University has not discriminated against female applicants for faculty positions in the Psychology Department, according to WLU's Vice-President Rowland Smith (Globe and Mail, August 10, 1999). Indeed women have frequently been offered faculty positions in the Psychology Department. Therefore, women have not been denied equal treatment or opportunity with respect to employment at Laurier, 2) Faculty hiring data published by Statistics Canada, as well as studies conducted within individual universities, have demonstrated conclusively that, for more than a decade, female applicants for university faculty positions are much more likely to be hired than male applicants. Thus female applicants have been successful in finding academic jobs and can not reasonably be considered to have suffered hardship or economic disadvantage, as a group. Wilfrid Laurier University's special program to discriminate against men to advantage women does not come close to meeting the criteria for an allowable special program as specified in Section 14 (1) of the Code.

In addition to clearly violating the Ontario Human Rights Code, Wilfrid Laurier's discriminatory job ad undermines the merit principle (and fairness) by allowing the possibility that the best candidate will not be hired. It also demeans women, who do not need special measures to succeed in Canadian universities.

Most profoundly, Wilfrid Laurier University's discriminatory job ad violates the whole spirit of the Code, which is intended "to recognize the dignity and worth of every person and to provide for equal rights and opportunities without discrimination..."

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