Philosophy prof reveals discrimination

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Adèle Mercier, a professor in the philosophy department, has accused Queen’s of using intimidation tactics to silence her and two other professors after she filed a complaint of gender discrimination against the department.

Mercier spoke of her experience with gender discrimination at the Women’s Worth Week “Gender Across the Disciplines” event last Wednesday.

In 2008, she filed complaints with the Human Rights Office after several female graduate students approached Mercier, professor Susan Babbitt and one other female philosophy professor about gender discrimination in the department.

Mercier said she and the other professors came forward to 16 people, including deans and associate deans, “principals”, and the provost and vice provost.

After a complaint was filed, an “External Climate Review” was conducted in 2010. The review found the allegations of gender discrimination to be legitimate, and offered recommendations — including the decentralization of power in the department — to combat the issue.

Since then, Mercier said only some of the recommendations have been implemented.

She declined to give details on which specific recommendations from the “climate review” weren’t implemented in the philosophy department.

Instead, Mercier alleges that since she filed a complaint with the department, she and the two other professors that came forward have faced intimidation tactics by University administration.

As a result of these tactics, Mercier has filed two human rights complaints against Queen’s and other individuals involved in this issue to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. One was filed in Sept. 2012 and the other in Feb. 2013, and neither of these complaints have been resolved as of yet.

Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA) has filed several grievances on behalf of Mercier in accordance with the Queen’s-QUFA collective agreement.

One of these grievances was stated in the human rights complaint filed in Feb. 2013, and said that in May 2010, Mercier was given a letter by the University that relieved her of some of her responsibilities in her department that she didn’t wish to be relieved of.

Mercier referenced this in her presentation on Wednesday when she alleged that she was “booted off” committees that she was once involved in. Mercier also said that she faced the brunt of the consequences since she was the only one to file an official complaint, but the other two professors who came forward have also been negatively affected.

“I’m not the only one to whom it’s happened,” she said. “It’s a kind of ubiquitous workplace phenomenon and it’s called mobbing.”

Susan Babbitt, one of the other professors who came forward, told the Journal via email that philosophy is one of the most male-dominated and “white” disciplines, and that anyone entering this field as a feminist should expect career frustration.

“Our department, several years ago, had a “climate review”, conducted by independent scholars and involving most members of the department. The report clearly identified systemic anti-feminist bias,” Babbitt said.

“Yet instead of motivating real change, the report was followed by personal attacks against the colleague most responsible for requesting the review. I saw it, and still see it, as silencing.”

She added that the department has been resistant to change intended to improve the position of women within the department.

“My department resists fundamental change to the curriculum, needed for women to be equally included in scholarship and intellectual community.” Queen’s Communications Specialist Kristyn Wallace spoke on behalf of the University in an email statement to the Journal responding to Mercier’s allegations.

“Queen’s believes that all faculty, staff and students should be able to work and study in an environment that is free from harassment and discrimination,” Wallace said.

“There are currently ongoing legal proceedings involving the university and Professor Mercier. Because of those proceedings, it would not be appropriate to provide further details on the matter at this time.”

Diane Beauchemin, the media contact from QUFA, declined to comment on the proceedings.

“I can’t [comment] because there are grievances in progress,” she said. “We can’t divulge what’s going on.”

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