August 29, 2011
Dr. Clive Seligman
Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship
1673 Richmond Street, #344
London, ON N6G 4Y2
Dear Dr. Seligman,
Thank you for your e-mail message and letter to President Runte, dated Monday August 15th, in which you express concern at the wording of our position advertisement for a two-year Visiting Aboriginal Scholar. President Runte has asked me to look into your concerns and respond to your letter.
At Carleton, we are making a serious effort to engage with the Aboriginal community in Canada, and our Aboriginal Affairs Task Force recently developed a strategy document which received formal approval from our Senate in June. Increasing the Aboriginal presence on our campus is an important goal. As part of those discussions and deliberations, we came to realize some of the barriers faced by young Aboriginal scholars in obtaining their first academic position. At the same time, we know from discussions with our Aboriginal students of the importance of having role models drawn from their own communities. Education is not simply about the transfer of information from one person to another; it is also about the process of knowledge acquisition and mentorship. We support the concept of “merit” and we realize that there are many aspects to its definition.
The Visiting Scholar position is but a small step along this important road. It is intended to give the equivalent of a post-doctoral fellowship to a recently graduated Aboriginal scholar, while at the same time allowing them to develop a track-record of teaching. This is one-time-only position, established for this very specific and strategic purpose, with half of the funding being provided by an external donor.
At the time of developing the position, we conferred closely with legal counsel and with our Equity Office to ensure compliance with relevant legislation. As you may know, Section 15.2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides explicit protection for initiatives of this sort, aimed at assisting groups who have historically been disadvantaged or discriminated against. The Federal Contractor’s Employment Equity program expects that institutions will implement special measures where under-representation of a specific designated group is found. The purpose of special measures is to take away the effects of past barriers and to support short-term goals. The Ontario Human Rights Code (section 14) contains similar provisions to meet particular needs, help reduce discrimination, and correct historical disadvantage.”
We fully understand and appreciate the concerns you are raising, and we support their application for most hiring situations. However, we feel that there are specific cases where exceptional conditions are appropriate and permitted, and that this is one of those exceptions.
Peter Ricketts, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice-President (Academic).