UBC and its community members share a responsibility for ensuring and maintaining an environment that is free from discrimination.
However, administrative heads of unit (AHU) bear the primary responsibility for maintaining discrimination-free working and learning environments. As an AHU, here’s how you can best support someone that approaches you to discuss human rights concerns.
As specified in Policy SC7: Discrimination administrative heads of unit may be: directors of a service unit, heads of an academic department, directors of a centre, institute or school, principals of a college, deans, associate vice-presidents, the university librarian, registrar, vice-presidents or the president of the university.
AHUs bear the primary responsibility for maintaining discrimination-free working and learning environments.
View a quick guide to AHU responsibilities related to equity-related policies.
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 to Gather Additional Information
Good questions elicit more information about the situation, what happened, what the consequences for the individual might be, and what is currently happening.
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. Managers must remain objective, while also being supportive.
Managers 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.
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.
Once you have spoken with the complainant, 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. Additionally, you can ask the person making a complaint to reach out the human rights team directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is advisable to offer additional supports. Students can be referred to Counselling Services at UBC, while staff and faculty can seek out support through Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP).