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CAUT Bulletin Archives

January 2001

DFA Negotiates Equity Plan

The Dalhousie Faculty Association (DFA) signed a precedent-setting settlement last month that commits the university administration to implement a broad range of policies and practices to deal with systemic discrimination.

DFA President Tom Faulkner hailed the settlement as a real step forward.

The settlement requires Dalhousie University to track the employment patterns of blacks and aboriginals — especially of indigenous blacks and Mi'kmaq — to determine who stays and who goes, and why they do.

It provides for extensive training in race relations for senior administrative and union officers, for faculty who sit on committees that do peer review, and for those who do employment systems reviews.

It mandates resources that will assist members of visible minorities in networking on campus, that will have them meeting regularly with senior administration, and that will help members of visible minorities to foster ties with their off-campus communities.

The settlement provides protection for the independence of Dalhousie's employment equity officer and staff with a similar responsibility. It requires that data for employment systems reviews be gathered by members of minority communities.

It requires the university to develop a comprehensive conflict of interest policy giving equality to heterosexual and homosexual couples through an open consultative process that includes the university senate.

It ensures that the prohibited discrimination complaints procedure recommended for adoption in September 2000 by the employment equity council will be extended to cover students at Dalhousie. And it puts same-sex couples on the same footing as heterosexual couples in all matters covered by the collective agreement, including all benefits.

"We wanted more, of course," Faulkner said. "But what the DFA achieved in the settlement is a firm commitment that the faculty association and the university administration will work together on these matters. Until now we have largely been at loggerheads.

"Furthermore, I am personally committed as DFA president to raise in this round of collective bargaining matters around academic freedom, inclusivity, and race relations."

Faulkner noted that the process leading to this settlement was hard. "At our best we university people are open, progressive and reasonable. But 'race' is one of our dirty little secrets.

"At Dalhousie, racially visible persons (especially indigenous blacks) and aboriginal peoples (especially Mi'kmaq) report feeling out of place on a campus that has been and remains systemically dominated by white european culture," he said.

"Some just put their heads down and grind along, accepting that change occurs slowly. Others respond to the weight of oppression by leaving. For too many aboriginals and blacks, Dalhousie's open door of welcome has proved to be a revolving door of hypocrisy. We hope this settlement will be a step forward in dealing with these historical realities."

Faulkner characterized the settlement negotiations as difficult. "A history of conflict and mistrust hung over the meetings between the university administration and the DFA, but I think that each side recognized the urgent necessity to approach race relations on campus in new ways," he noted.

"I cannot overstate how helpful the resources and advice provided by CAUT were from beginning to end," he added. "This was reflected in the university administration's request that the final agreement specify that CAUT shall be consulted in designing educational programs on equity issues at Dalhousie over at least the next two years."

In a report on the outcome of the process, Faulkner expressed the hope that some of the fissures that have appeared in the minority communities on campus as a result of the controversy over this case will be replaced by a renewed and open solidarity, working to implement the structural reforms that have been achieved.

He added, "I also hope that the Dalhousie community will now be able to find its wise way through the thicket created by its past history, to effect a real improvement in real time of the role that race plays in our common life."