Toronto Star

Saturday, August 7, 1999

'Women only' ad sparks row

By Carol Goodwin
The Toronto Star

WATERLOO -- Academics from across Canada are writing to Wilfrid Laurier University to express their dismay at a job advertisement saying only women need apply for a psychology professor position.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has also received a number of letters from professors questioning WLU's use of a special section of the Human Rights Code, an official said Thursday.

"Obviously, at Laurier the commitment to ... fairness and the pursuit of academic excellence take a back seat to social goals like achieving gender balance in departments," says one letter from Murray Miles, associate professor of philosophy at St. Catharines' Brock University, one of 12 received by WLU president Robert Rosehart.

In his own letter, Steve Lupker, a psychology professor at the University of Western Ontario, urged WLU to withdraw the ad, which was posted electronically last month and will run in newspapers and academic newsletters in the fall.

The ad, for a behavioural psychology professor, says:

"The department is attempting to address a gender imbalance ... and therefore will hire a woman for this position, as allowed by the special program of the Ontario Human Rights Commission."

Angelo Santi, Laurier's psychology department head, said the ad is a last resort to address the fact there are 18 male and only four female professors in the department.

But some professors are questioning WLU's interpretation of Section 14 of the Ontario Human Rights Code, which states that a special program may be implemented as long as it does not infringe on other rights and is "designed to relieve hardship or economic disadvantage or to assist disadvantaged persons ... to achieve equal opportunity."

Although he concedes women have suffered job discrimination at universities in the past, Lupker said female academics are not a disadvantaged group. He referred to a study tracking faculty hirings from 1987 to 1996 at his own university that shows more women than men were hired during that period.


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