Faculty revamps summer program

Student files human rights complaint against Enrichment Studies office

Alistair MacLean, dean of arts and science, says his office decided not to replace Enrichment Studies Unit Director Lise Alban after a human rights complaint was filed against her office.
Alistair MacLean, dean of arts and science, says his office decided not to replace Enrichment Studies Unit Director Lise Alban after a human rights complaint was filed against her office.
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The Enrichment Studies Unit (ESU) was spared the chopping block but further programming has been suspended until spring.

Alistair MacLean, dean of arts and science, said the program was put on hold after a student employee filed a human rights complaint against the office earlier this summer.

“We got a series of concerns raised relating to diversity issues,” he said.

MacLean said he had meetings with the Human Rights Office, Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane and staff from human resources and ESU over the summer.

“One of the big decisions for us was ‘Do we go on with enrichment studies programs?’” he said. “We also considered terminating the enrichment studies programs.”

Enrichment studies is a program for academically gifted middle- and high-school students. Students have an opportunity to stay in residence or complete a day-program where they study subjects of interest to them and experience university life.

“Ultimately, our feeling was to try to improve things rather than cut them off,” MacLean said. “It will be continuing for the immediate future, and we’ll be keeping a very close eye on how things are progressing.” Although there was discussion ESU Director Lise Alban might be replaced, she will keep her job, MacLean said.

“I think our approach to trying to better the situation in the long run is the right approach rather than simply cutting people off,” he said, adding that Alban will now report the office’s activities to the associate dean of studies.

“We’ve strengthened that reporting relationship and made it a much closer one than was the case in the past,” he said.

Alban declined to comment to the Journal.

The ESU normally runs a Seeds in Residence program for middle-school students in the fall.

“We moved the Seeds in Residence program to the summer,” MacLean said. “It gave us more time to restructure and redefine.”

MacLean said the office has made changes in the managing structure and in staff training for the ESU, adding that a lot of the changes were planned in the last few weeks of summer and there will be more during the school year.

“We’ve increased diversity and equity training both for the staff of the enrichment studies office and students we might employ in the future,” he said. “I think [the complaints] happened, to a large extent, because people don’t have complete sensitivity to what are diversity issues and what offence certain behaviours or opinions might have for other people.”

MacLean’s office has been working with the Human Rights Office to investigate the complaint.

“We still have some way to go in terms of having sufficient sensitivity for diversity and equity issues,” he said. “It involves equity and diversity being part of essentially everything that we do.”

MacLean said his office took the complaints seriously.

“I realize that whatever we do there will be people who are happy or unhappy on both sides of these issues,” he said. “What we have tried to do is improve the program, especially with respect to diversity issues.”

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