Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Professor Jennifer Chan accuses the UBC of 'racial bias.'
Professor Jennifer Chan accuses the UBC of 'racial bias.'

Human rights

Professor files complaint against UBC for 'racial bias' Add to ...

An associate professor at the University of British Columbia has accused the institution of "racial bias" because she was denied a promotion and her complaint about unfair treatment was later rejected by an internal review.

Jennifer Chan, an associate professor in the department of educational studies, said in a statement released Tuesday that she has now filed a complaint with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.

But Scott Macrae, director of public affairs at UBC, said the university "has thoroughly and exhaustively investigated the allegations" both through an inquiry and with a separate review by external human-rights experts.

"Both processes found no discrimination and the university has accepted those conclusions," said Mr. Macrae in a e-mail. "The university's internal processes have been completed. The matter is now before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. The university is participating fully in that process as it moves forward. As this is an employee matter and the subject of litigation, the university is not at liberty to comment further."

In a detailed complaint filed with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, Dr. Chan says that in December of 2009 she failed to win appointment at UBC to the David Lam Chair in Multicultural Education.

"She is of Chinese descent and immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong in 2001. She alleges that [UBC]… discriminated against her regarding her employment because of her race, colour, ancestry and place of origin," states the complaint, filed by Dr. Chan's lawyer, Joanna Gislason.

The complaint says Dr. Chan is a graduate of Stanford University, with a doctorate in international comparative education, who joined UBC in 2001, became an assistant professor in 2003 and was granted tenure as an associate professor in 2008.

Dr. Chan, whose research focuses on international human rights, multiculturalism and antiracism, alleges her qualifications are better than, or at least equal to, those of the person appointed to the Lam Chair.

Dr. Chan states that after she complained to UBC officials, the university contracted an investigator, Nitya Iyer, who subsequently found the university "did not discriminate … in offering the Lam Chair to the successful candidate rather than to Professor Chan."

But Dr. Chan's complaint alleges the UBC internal complaint process itself is flawed and unfair.

Although Dr. Chan says she "is unaware of any direct derogatory comment being made about her race," she alleges she has been the victim of "a discriminatory institutional culture" at UBC.

"Her race is regularly a subtle negative factor in her dealings with her colleagues. This climate forms the backdrop of her complaint. She has been considered 'Chinese faculty' and 'not sociable,' " states the complaint.

Dr. Chan also states she was twice nominated by students for a Killam Teaching Prize, but both times failed to get the award.

"In the past 20 years, the 40 awardees of this prestigious prize in her faculty have been, to the best of Dr. Chan's knowledge, 100 per cent white," states the complaint.

The document also states that in 2007 "a white colleague made an unfounded allegation of plagiarism during her tenure and promotion review," and that the department head, "also white," did not allow her a fair chance to respond.

"The allegation [of plagiarism]was quickly dropped but Dr. Chan was traumatized by the incident. She suffered from insomnia and stress … The white faculty who made the unfounded charge was never disciplined. There was no inquiry or apology," states the claim.

A spokesperson for the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal said officials could not comment.

Report Typo/Error

Follow on Twitter: @markhumeglobe

Next story




Most popular videos »

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular