Good news for UBC professors

I got notification about this story a couple of days ago:

All University of British Columbia all full-time, female-identified tenure and tenure-track professors are getting a raise to counteract gendered pay inequity.

The two per cent salary increase, retroactive to July 1, 2010, is part of a three-year process between the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the UBC Faculty Association (UBCFA) to solve pay inequity among full-time tenure-track faculty. The study did not look at pay inequity among UBC academic or administrative support staff.

Inspired by pay equity reports in 2007 and 2009 from UBC’s Equity Office, the University and UBCFA created two separate working groups: the DATA Working Group for collecting data on pay equity and the SMART Working Group to devise solutions.

According to a joint message from UBCFA and UBC’s two provosts sent to faculty today, the DATA Working Group’s “analyses indicated that after accounting for the factors of under representation of females at the full professor level, experience, and differences in the gender balance across departments, a pay differential of 2% remained, that could only be explained by gender. This unexplained female pay disadvantage is considered a systemic discrimination issue.”

This is a ‘win’ story for not only female-identified faculty at UBC, but for the university at large. They identified an issue (eventually), took it seriously enough to collect and analyze the data, and then committed to make restitution for an arbitrarily unfair system. What is most interesting is that, while there was a strong financial and psychological incentive for them to attempt to explain away this difference as “assertiveness” or “different time commitments” or any of the other ‘just-so stories’ that are used to justify administrative inaction, they were sensible and aware enough to treat it as an issue that warranted a system-wide response.

I say that this is good news for the university because they will likely gain a great deal of (justified) goodwill for taking the issue of gender equality seriously. UBC is a large, wealthy, and old institution. Groups like that don’t often make changes like this, even in the face of data like this. It will be interesting to see if Canada’s other venerable institutions follow suit (or, indeed, if UBC is actually the last to do this – it’s certainly possible).

So thumbs up for that!

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!

Colonialism is the corruption

Unfortunately, events have conspired to rob me of my blogging juice for today, but all is not lost. There is a great article by historian Tony Kaye that looks to debunk one of the central claims of the opposition to the #IdleNoMore movement, and I think instead of reading what I would say about it, you should read this:

Canada belongs to a significant group of countries whose modern nationality is a result of British expansion overseas. The colonial history of Canada and the West African country of Ghana, for example, have their beginnings with the British Crown. British agents used treaty making in each region as legal justifications to themselves and their competitors that specific native leaders would “Cede and Surrender” their traditional rights over land in exchange for the Protection of the English Monarch. In both colonies, the altruism of “protection” in the treaties hid the British plan to gain control over the region without the expense of projecting its full military force.

(snip)

Years after colonial rule in Ghana ended in 1957, generations of scholars, politicians and activists from throughout the world examined the accusations of wrongdoing among chiefs under British rule. Not a single voice concluded that chiefs were the only cause of the scandals. Nor did they advocate that increased accountability would have protected people from injustice. Instead, scholars contextualized abuses of power among chiefs within the more important discussion about the effect of colonial rule in Ghana.

The take-home message here is that what Canada is doing to its chiefs – focussing on ‘wrongdoing’ by chiefs (which is, more often than not, ludicrously hypocritical), is precisely the behaviour that has been modeled by other colonial states. Examination after the fact reveals that it is colonialism, not ‘corruption’, that best explains the issues facing colonized people.

Read the rest of the article. It’s really good.

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!

One of these things is eerily like the other

Because I was raised Catholic, I sometimes feel the call to do penance for my sins. If I have done something mildly naughty, I say a few ‘Hail Mary’s. If I’ve done something particularly bad, I might wear a hair-shirt for a couple of days. But if I have sinned so egregiously that nothing but the most severe punishment will do, I read the things people write about Ophelia Benson. The level of brain-exfoliating stupidity evinced by her committed claque of ‘enemies’ is usually painful enough to ensure that I will never transgress so profoundly again.

Today’s bit of mental self-flagellation comes courtesy of a podcast host by the name of Reap Paden: [Read more...]

Another stake in the heart of colour blindness

I hate “colour blindness” as a racial philosophy. Well-intentioned though it may be, it’s a profoundly unhelpful and unworkable proposed solution to a very serious intercultural issue. Is there any other problem on the planet that we think is best addressed by simply pretending as though it isn’t there*? For every other social issue I can think of, failing to at least appreciate the existence of reality is seen as a vice, not a virtue. And yet, when it comes to race, we have somehow managed to convince ourselves that the ostrich has the right idea.

Liberals and conservatives alike have expressed serious resistance to the idea that ignoring race doesn’t solve race. As I’ve explained before on this blog, a couple of times actually, colour blindness not only doesn’t bring us any closer to solving racial issues, it actually makes us less able to describe and address those issues. Far from being a solution, it makes us silent on the problem, meaning that the unacceptable status quo of racial inequalities is allowed to run its course unopposed.

So once again, it’s skeptics to the rescue, this time with a study examining a novel downside of the “colour blind” approach. Researchers at Tufts and MIT examined the effect of “colour blind” approaches to problem-solving in an experimental setting. [Read more...]

Who’s laughing?

A little while ago I got into a silly fight with someone who I used to (before this fight) think was a pretty decent person. Ze had posted a comic that poked fun at people who misrepresent themselves on social media. Because it was the internet, a lot of the panels made fun of fat people. I pointed out that while the overall premise of the joke was funny, it could have made the same point equally as effectively without mocking people for their body size/shape. After all, surely they got enough of that just being out in public?

The discussion quickly devolved (with the help of one of her friends) into accusations of me grandstanding for attention because I was a blogger – a charge that even if it were true would be completely orthogonal to whether or not I was right. One of the recurring themes in the conversation – indeed, in any conversation in which a person is asked to consider the harm their comments make – is that I should somehow forgive the comic because it’s “just a joke”, as though the fact that someone finds it funny somehow makes it not harmful. As though nobody has ever been hurt by being the butt of a cruel joke before.

The very premise itself seems silly, but it’s a depressingly common refrain. And it seems there is no level of depravity in which it will not be pressed into service: [Read more...]

On the wrong side of justice

This post is going to be a bit of a pedantic rant about a figure of speech, but I hope you’ll bear with me because I don’t think it’s a trivial issue. Progressive liberals often describe conservatives as being “on the wrong side of history” when it comes to things like gay rights, gender or race equality, and generally most progressive causes. History indeed shows us that the people who make arguments standing in opposition to social changes often find themselves left in the dust – defenders of Jim Crow segregations laws lost, as did those who opposed women getting the vote, as did those who said that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to serve in the military.

There is something missing from that “left in the dust” statement though, and that’s the word “eventually”. The people who opposed Jim Crow were highly relevant right up until Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act. People who opposed gay equality in Canada (at least insofar as marriage was concerned) were highly relevant up until 2004, when the Supreme Court ruled that marriage discrimination violated the Charter rights of gay Canadians – people who oppose gay people serving openly in the U.S. armed forces only became ‘the wrong side of history’ last year.

Indeed, we can also see this starry-eyed phrase crop up in our ongoing social justice struggles: [Read more...]

Glass ceilings, cliffs, and the wrong side of history

Undoubtedly, the vast majority of you don’t pay attention to Canadian provincial politics. To be quite honest with you, I don’t either (outside of a bit of attention paid to my own province, mostly by accident). However, this past Saturday my non-provincial-politics-watching streak was broken by the occasion of the Ontario Liberal leadership convention coming to a close. Without wanting to go too far into the history, the former premier (a position equivalent to a governor in the United States) resigned quite suddenly in the midst of a number of political crises. The convention on Saturday was the result of a democratic process internal to the party to select his successor, and the presumptive premier of the largest province in the country.

In a move that may have surprised a number of people, the winner of the election, on the third ballot, was Kathleen Wynne, an experienced politician and member of the provincial cabinet. After a second round in which Ms. Wynne was the front-runner alongside Sandra Pupatello. Two other candidates trailed, but with enough delegates to sway the final voting in either direction. They both chose to endorse Wynne, and brought a large percentage of their delegates along with them, cementing Ms. Wynne’s appointment by a final vote split of 57% to 43%.

If you care to do so, you can read some of my initial reactions to the outcome as a Storify log. What I want to do in this piece (and likely in a subsequent one) is to explore a few of the statements I heard in the wake of the announcement. [Read more...]

Impersonations

Brian

A short headsup: it’s been brought to my attention that a person out there is pretending to be me. They’re pointing at this site and claiming that they are Brian Lynchehaun, and including the above photo in their email correspondence.

Putting aside the (clearly insane) notion that being this particular Brian Lynchehaun improves your odds with the women (I have not yet been informed that they are hitting on men), should you receive an email from someone purporting to be me, I’d encourage you to click on the twitter link that follows all of my posts in order to verify that The Real Brian Lynchehauntm.

Alternatively, I can easily be found on Facebook and G+.

And now back to your regularly scheduled posts…

A link to Brian on Twitter!

Movie Friday: Voices United for Mali

Music has been, and continues to be, an integral part of my life. I picked up my first musical instrument at age 6, and since then there hasn’t been a time when I wasn’t doing something musical in my free time. I went through private lessons, string ensembles, chamber orchestras, symphony orchestras, rock bands, solo gigs, string quartets… it’s been a huge part of not only how I live my life, but how I see myself.

So, at this moment in time, I am really glad I don’t live in Mali:

Musicians in Mali are defying militants in the North who have declared Shariah law and banned all music but the Islamic call to prayer.

(snip)

Strict Islamist militants imposing a version of Shariah law first seized control of major towns across northern Mali last March. They have since solidified their grip on the North and forced hundreds of thousands to flee.

(snip)

“It is strange for us to understand the extent to which it is impossible to listen or play music in the North. You can’t do it anymore. The only way you can play it is to drive miles out into the desert, where you are beyond the earshot of anyone.”

Before this recent outbreak of fundagelical religious tyrannical fascism, Mali sounds like a place I could be quite happy in. Music is woven into their cultural expression in much the same way it is woven into my life. And that makes the ban on music all the more shocking and deplorable.

Now I’m not going to comment on the rightness or wrongness of European/North American military intervention in Mali. Some analysts have pointed out that the crisis there was triggered as a result of NATO intervention in Libya – as mercenary groups fled post-Gaddhafi Libya, they moved west and eventually took over. I am not sure what is to be done there, since foreign involvement may have triggered the damn thing in the first place. What I do know is that the people who made this video are impressive as hell:

I can’t imagine what I would do if music was outlawed by threat of death. One thing I do know is that by standing up and resisting, the people of Mali are setting a powerful example for oppressed groups everywhere: resistance in the face of unjust persecution is human dignity at its height.

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!

The duelling myth postulate: summary and extension

So for the past couple of days you’ve all been very indulgent as I have worked by way through a rhetorical device that I have been pondering for a couple of weeks now. The idea can be summarized as follows:

Many disputes can be expressed as being grounded in two opposing myths: that the world (relative to the topic under discussion) is fundamentally fair, and that the world is fundamentally unfair. Based on those beliefs, moral arguments are developed that either require the preservation of the status quo (f-myth) or its abolition/modification (u-myth). From within each mythical perspective, the opposing argument becomes immoral as a necessary consequence.

What I think this framework (which is really more of a rhetorical device than anything else) allows us to do takes two principal forms. First, it may allow us to gain insight into the positions of people we find in opposition to whatever we are trying to do, connecting the dots between beginning and end rather than just focusing on the end’s immorality. Second, by making explicit all (or at least many) of the steps along the way to the conclusion, it provides us with opportunities to either re-evaluate our own position or attack those of others by injecting different types of evidence into their logical process. [Read more...]