AUB acknowledges achievements and steps forward in gender equity

gender equity inThe Gender Equity Group at AUB has gathered faculty, staff, and students to reflect critically on the status of women at AUB, to showcase a broad selection of the current efforts related to women and gender equity in a panel, as well as raise awareness about gender equity issues at AUB in an event entitled ‘AUB and Gender Equity: 1905 to 2016’1.

In 1921, AUB became coeducational by taking the decisive step to admit female students in all its programs, including the Training School for Nurses, the Schools of Medicine, Pharmacy and Dentistry, the sophomore class of the School of Arts and Sciences in preparation for entrance to medicine; and as special students in courses above the freshman year in the School of Arts and Sciences. This momentous change garnered both supporters and opponents  but in the words of then Acting president Edward F. Nickoley, this step represented on the part of the university authorities “a deliberate action taken only after long and careful consideration of all the implications of the questions involved.”  

Twenty-five years later, AUB, a pioneer in higher education for women in the region had succeeded in providing women and the region with a unique experience. From the first five women who registered in 1921-1922, to the 127 female students registered in 1947, AUB had charted a courageous path, contributing to a shift in gender relations, and “providing young women with the possibility to imagine a different future,” as wrote Nadia El Cheikh and Samar El Mikati in their chapter titled ‘Women at AUB: The Beginnings, 1905 – 1947, a Photo Essay) in the book One Hundred and Fifty, recently published by AUB Press.

Today, 150 years since the foundation of the institution, the ‘AUB and Gender Equity: 1905 to 2016’ panel discussions reflected on progress made and some of the many steps yet to be taken for women and gender equity at AUB.

All AUB faculties were represented in the panels, in addition to representatives from centers and units at AUB conducting work on gender (Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service (CCECS) and Environment and Sustainable Development Unit (ESDU)); program directors representing the University for Seniors and Executive Education Program; undergraduate students representing the Gender and Sexuality Club and the Secular Club and graduate students conducting their thesis around gender related issues.

The four panels examined AUB efforts for the advancement of women; faculty research and education; student action to raise consciousness; and AUB community engagement in the field of gender advancement at AUB. The panelists shared their work in relation to gender and gender equity at AUB, and shed light on the role that AUB is playing to promote gender equity in Lebanon and the region.

Throughout history, AUB has demonstrated several examples of women’s empowerment on campus. In its administration, two female deans and two female provosts have held position.  However, as AUB President Fadlo R. Khuri pointed out at the panel discussions, inequities remain. “We are proud that a lot of AUB’s leaders among staff and faculty are women, we have a good proportion of male to female, but there needs to be more women in leadership positions,” said Dr. Khuri.

As Dean Nahla Hwalla explained in her speech, more than a decade ago, the framework for responding to discrimination and harassment was established under then AUB President, Dr. John Waterbury, who mentioned in his state of the university address in 2002 that it was his policy “to increase the number of women in our student body, in our faculty ranks, and in our senior administration.”

In 2015, President Fadlo Khuri asked Dr. Brigitte Khoury of the Faculty of Medicine to chair a faculty/staff advisory group composed of men and women appointed to initiate an internal and comparative assessment of University practices, policies, and resources specific to non-discrimination, and to develop recommendations that advance a climate of respect, equity, and inclusion.  Also in the committee is Ms. Trudi Hodges, AUB’s first Title IX coordinator, assigned in 2014 to assist in and advise on allegations related to possible discrimination or harassment on the basis of gender at AUB and AUBMC.

President Khuri also appointed former Dean of the faculty of Health Sciences Huda Zurayk to co-chair with Professor of Architecture Dr. Howayda Al-Harithy a taskforce to look at the lives and careers of women faculty to provide data by the end of 2016 that can shape due policies.  At the opening of the panel discussions, Dr. Khuri announced an annual award that would be funded as a presidential initiative and would be assigned for a member of the AUB community nominated as consistent in the promotion of the lives and careers of women at AUB.

“I would like the next person who is president of AUB or provost or dean, to be chosen based on merit not on whether they are Lebanese or American, male or female. I want the best person chosen […]. Just based on the fact that they are excellent and fair and just and good role models. That’s our overarching role, and that’s why today is a great day, a start of a long and critical voyage,” said President Khuri.

AUB embraced coeducation long before many prestigious institutions did around the world, and with this initiative it is showing its strong disposition to continue playing a leading role in the empowerment of women in the region.

Source : AUB

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