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Vol 38  No 9
February 2, 2006


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Investigation to audit Memorial’s harassment procedures

Memorial University has launched an investigation to examine the procedures and policies it uses when dealing with incidents of alleged harassment at the institution. The announcement was made in January by Dr. Axel Meisen, Memorial’s president. (see http://today.mun.ca/news.php?news_id=1730).

The investigation will be undertaken by Dr. Shirley Katz of York University. Dr. Katz is a lawyer as well as a former associate dean of arts and associate to the legal counsel at York University. She has extensive experience with harassment and discrimination issues and has conducted numerous investigations. She has also been in the forefront of training investigators.

Memorial’s investigation was precipitated by events involving the late Dr. Deepa Khosla, a 41-year-old political science professor who died last fall due to natural causes (a haemorrhage caused by a brain aneurysm). However, prior to her death, she had complained to university officials and others about harassing behaviour she was experiencing from a student.

Subsequent to her death, members of Dr. Khosla’s family and fellow scholars from outside Memorial University contacted Memorial’s president, alleging that Dr. Khosla had experienced a lack of support for her safety and an unwelcoming environment for women at Memorial University.

Dr. Meisen said that there appears to be a great deal of speculation and incorrect information. He wants the inquiry to establish the truth.

“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; and making recommendations for improvements.”

The results of the investigation are expected to be received by early April and the university will make them public.

“I am committed to providing a supportive and respectful working environment for all members of the university community,” said Dr. Meisen. “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. But it is important that we allow the investigator to do her work and not jump to conclusions before that work is concluded.”

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