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CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2000

Discrimination Claim 'Sensational Accusation'

In a commentary to the Bulletin (April), "Actions Speak Louder Than Words," Professor Chandrakant P. Shah tries to dissuade us from any naive belief we may have about Canadian universities no longer practicing "systemic discrimination" in the hiring of minorities.

He, too, used to be naive. But his experience at the University of Toronto has taught him otherwise. What experience? Well, Shah has discovered that since the approval of an employment equity policy in March 1991 by the U of T governing council, there really has been no significant changes in the percentage of visible minorities in tenure stream faculty.

He thus offers the following numbers to prove this: 9.7 per cent of tenure stream faculty were minorities in 1990/91; 6.7 per cent in 1992/93; 8.8 per cent in 1996/97; and 8.7 per cent in 1998/99. This meagre set of numbers is the sole factual basis for Shah's condemning claim that the University of Toronto practices systemic discrimination. Indeed he thinks these numbers can be generalized to argue that many Canadian institutions of higher learning also practice systemic discrimination.

Clearly, the worst conclusion one can reach from these numbers is that U of T has not acted on its own commitment to hire more visible minorities. But the truth is that these numbers are meaningless unless they are compared to the actual number of visible minorities in the applicant pool. U of T would deserve criticism for lack of equity if it was shown that the percentage of minorities it has hired since 1991 is lower than their representation in the applicant pool.

Unfortunately Shah is more interested in sensational accusations than serious analysis. I find it extremely irresponsible and discriminatory for Professor Shah to accuse Canadian universities of systemic discrimination on such spurious evidence.

Ricardo Duchesne
Social Science, University of New Brunswick