University to audit harassment procedures
The following statement to the Memorial University community was issued on Friday, Jan. 13, 2006, by Dr. Axel Meisen, President and Vice-Chancellor:
Dr. Deepa Khosla, a political scientist, who joined Memorial University in August 2005 as an assistant professor, sadly passed away from natural causes on Nov. 21, 2005. When she did not report for work on Nov. 17, university officials alerted the police who found her in a coma in her apartment and transferred her immediately to the Health Sciences Centre. Regrettably, she could not be revived and succumbed to a brain hemorrhage caused by a brain aneurysm.
According to a letter to me written by Dr. Khosla on Nov. 3, she was enjoying her first semester at Memorial and was looking forward to a long and successful career at Memorial University. However, she was concerned about two encounters she had with a particular student in August and September which led her to believe the student was taking a personal interest in her. Dr. Khosla asked that the student be prevented from registering in her classes in future. The student was not registered in her courses at the time and the University administration agreed to her request.
During the past few weeks, I received several e-mail messages, including messages from members of Dr. Khosla's family and fellow scholars from outside Memorial University, alleging that Dr. Khosla felt a lack of support for her safety and an unwelcoming environment for women at Memorial University.
These are serious concerns and I have therefore committed the university to an independent investigation with four principal objectives:
obtaining a thorough understanding of Dr. Khosla's concerns, including their reasons, and the University's response to her concerns;
reviewing the policies, procedures and practices of the University regarding the environment for women;
reviewing the policies, procedures and practices of the University regarding the regulation of student conduct on campus;
making recommendations for improvements.
The results of the investigation will be made public, except for those aspects that the investigator concludes are necessary to withhold in order to protect privacy.
I am committed to providing a supportive and respectful working environment for all members of the University community. I want to be certain that we took all reasonable measures in Dr. Khosla's circumstances and that our policies are comprehensive and properly administered. If effective improvements are identified, we will make them. Dr. Khosla was a valuable and highly promising colleague. It saddens me deeply to learn that there may have been circumstances that detracted from her full enjoyment of Memorial University. While such an investigation does not mitigate Dr. Khosla's tragic and untimely death, it will achieve our objective regarding a respectful and supportive environment for all members of Memorial University.
The investigation will be conducted by Dr. Shirley Katz, Associate Professor of Humanities at York University. Dr. Katz holds a Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures from Harvard University and earned her LL.B. from the University of Toronto. She is a member of the Bar of Ontario. A former Associate Dean of Arts and Associate to the legal counsel at York University, Dr. Katz has extensive experience with harassment and discrimination issues, has conducted numerous investigations and has been in the forefront of training investigators.
Terms of Reference
To inquire into the employment-related experience of Dr. Deepa Khosla from her start date of August 1, 2005 to her death on November 21, 2005. In particular, to:
Provide a thorough understanding of Dr. Khosla's concerns, including their reasons, regarding her interactions with a particular student;
Assess whether Memorial University did enough to allay Dr. Khosla's concerns and to protect her;
Review the effectiveness of policies, procedures and practices of the University regarding the environment for women;
Evaluate whether Memorial University's policies, procedures and practices in the area of harassment are disseminated and applied effectively;
Determine whether Memorial University's climate is sufficiently supportive and welcoming to women;
Make recommendations for improvements to the University's policies, procedures and practices in the area of fostering a good working environment for women and in the area of regulating student conduct on campus.
It is expected that a report will be received no later than April 1, 2006.
Axel Meisen, Ph.D., P.Eng.
President and Vice-Chancellor