A trans student has criticized Sauder’s approach to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) after a professor allegedly made upsetting comments about them and initially dismissed them from his class.

Ky Sargeant, a fifth-year Sauder student and a trans woman, said Dr. Adel Gamar allegedly called them “a trans” when they interviewed for a seat in his COMM 483 class two weeks ago. In a written statement sent to The UbyssianGamar said he called Sargeant a “trans person” in the interview and “much appreciated” when they corrected him saying they were a trans woman.

“I didn’t think that in a course where the main description of it is… like very, very, very big language around building an inclusive and diverse environment that I would have to deal with micro-aggression” , said Sargeant.

According to COMM 483 course description – a senior year leadership and management course – hardworking and innovative students who bring something ‘different’ are encouraged to apply.

Sargeant also alleged that Gamar later said in an email exchange – which was obtained by The Ubyssian — that they would threaten the psychological safety of the class if accepted.

“The student is admitted to the course if his application and interview allow the teaching team to ensure that he will contribute to the psychological safety of the cohort required for a complex discussion without confrontation or argument. Your application and interview did not provide that,” Gamar wrote in response to an email from Sargeant asking for more details about their rejection.

“To get this comment [on psychological safety] … was very, very upsetting,” Sargeant said.

Gamar said The Ubyssian to which he was referring a theory by Amy Edmondson, professor at Harvard University Business School.

“I would never suggest that a candidate would be ‘psychologically unsafe’ for the course – a comment that would be flatly false and very misguided,” he wrote.

He added that he and the teaching team seek to promote EDI and psychological safety when reviewing applications.

After hearing from Gamar — and sending him three response emails — Sargeant met with Sauder Senior Associate Dean EDI Katherine White and Sauder Senior Associate Dean Students JoAndrea Hoegg.

“[White and Hoegg were] fully support behind me, and try to solve this problem and try to remedy this,” Sargeant said in an interview.

In a statement to The UbyssianHoegg said Sargeant was admitted to COMM 483 after “continued and constructive dialogue with the instructor and the student.”

“We look forward to welcoming this new cohort of students into the classroom where multiple perspectives and ideas will contribute to a rich and diverse learning environment for all.”

In a message to The UbyssianSargeant said they were disappointed this incident happened for them to be admitted.

“If I hadn’t had the relationships, not worked as hard as I did in college,” they wrote, “there is no guarantee this would have happened.” Sargeant has worked on and led several equity and inclusion initiatives at Sauder and the Commerce Undergraduate Society.

It’s all about culture

Sargeant said Sauder can do more to promote EDI in its programs — like standardizing pronoun sharing or incorporating material on systemic racism and sexism into the curriculum — but the current culture doesn’t allow for those discussions. .

“There is no culture of ‘What are the social implications of our studies? ” they said. “The school culture is…this is how you apply, this is how you get a job, this is how you make money.”

They said some people, like senior deans and junior faculty, are open to change. “But just on a broader structural level, it’s a nightmare.”

Sargeant also pointed to systems and structures in place that “don’t give people the resources or the education to do better” as the cause of the lack of change.

Sargeant said they are currently working on a survey with Hoegg to assess the state of EDI teaching at Sauder that will be sent to faculty later this year. But, they said the recommendations of this investigation will not be implemented for at least two years.

“That’s kind of what I’m talking about system change…to really get something moving and something happening, it’s like a four or five year timeline.”