Recommendations for Administrators Receiving Human Rights Disclosures and Complaints

UBC and its community members share a responsibility for ensuring and maintaining an environment that is free from discrimination. 

Administrative heads of unit (AHU) bear the primary responsibility for maintaining discrimination-free working and learning environments. As an AHU, here’s what you should know if someone approaches you with a human rights related concern.

UBC’s Discrimination Policy (SC7) 

Matters of discrimination at UBC are to be addressed under UBC’s Discrimination Policy (SC7). 

Who is considered an AHU? 

SC7 defines AHUs as “Director of a service unit; Head of an academic department; Director of a centre, institute or school; Principal of a college; Dean; Associate Vice‐President; University Librarian; Registrar; Vice‐President; Deputy Vice‐ Chancellor and Principal; or President”.

When to contact the Human Rights Team at the EIO? 

If you receive a complaint which may relate to one of the “protected characteristics” under the BC Human Rights Code, that is your signal to consult with the Human Rights team at the Equity & Inclusion Office as UBC’s Discrimination Policy (SC7) may be engaged.  

You should also advise the complainant of their option to have a confidential meeting with a Human Rights Advisor.

What are the protected characteristics? 

Indigenous identity, race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or age of that person or class of persons. 

What should you do when receiving a disclosure related to human rights? 

Provide options for disclosure 

If someone indicates they have a complaint related to human rights/discrimination, you can let them know they have the option to report it to you as the AHU directly, or that they can meet with a Human Rights Advisor at the EIO for a confidential meeting if that feels more comfortable for them ( 

It is not always helpful to have someone repeat their story many times, and they may prefer to meet with an HRA who has experience in trauma-informed advising.

If they wish to disclose details to you, let the complainant tell their story in their own words 

Use reflective listening to aid this process. Reflective listening helps keep a conversation flowing without providing judgements regarding what is being discussed. It also provides a means of verifying what was said so that the manager’s interpretations and notes will be accurate. 

Reflective listening involves: 

  • Summarizing what the complainant is saying; 
  • The summary should be purely descriptive (“so, you heard him say…”); 
  • The summary should be brief and should prompt the interviewee to continue. 

Use open-ended, neutral questions  

Good questions elicit more information about the situation, what happened, what the consequences for the individual might be, and what is currently happening. 

While it is important to seek clarity and understanding, you do not need to gather every detail at the initial disclosure.

Do not ask a question that may be heard as questioning the integrity of the interviewee (for example, “what did you do to make the person speak to you that way?”). 

Validate feelings, not the described events 

People’s feelings should be taken at face value, and should not be discounted. If expressed feelings (for example, “I’m very afraid of him”) may appear to be extreme at times, simply note them. AHUs must remain objective, while also being supportive. 

AHUs should try to remain impartial and avoid statements that appear to make judgements. To illustrate, in response to a described incident, instead of saying “we will not tolerate that behaviour,” you could instead respond with the phrase “the behaviour you describe certainly cannot be tolerated.” The former may be interpreted as verification of the events described, whereas the latter is more neutral. 

Practice patience 

In most situations of harassment, complainants need time to gather and express their thoughts. Providing this time is important so that they are able to provide a full picture of what happened. 

Complainants are also usually intimidated by coming forward and may not know exactly what they want to say. Allowing a complainant time to tell his/her story shows support. You may need to ask some clarifying questions; these questions can be saved till the end of the person’s account. 

Next steps 

Once you have received a complaint that you think might be related to discrimination, reach out for a consultation with the human rights team at the UBC Equity & Inclusion Office. A member of the team can assist and advise with next steps. 

If the complainant is staff or faculty, you may also want to reach out to employee or faculty relations staff for further guidance and support.  

It is advisable to offer additional supports relevant support services. Students can be referred to Counselling Services at UBC, while staff and faculty can seek out support through Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP).