Responding to discrimination

UBC is committed to providing a safe, supportive, and inclusive living and learning environment, with resources and services to support all students.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination is treatment that burdens or disadvantages someone with no reasonable justification and where these disadvantages are related to one’s race, colour, place of origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, mental disability, physical disability, sex, age, religion, family status, and marital status. Discrimination involves unfair or different treatment for reasons unrelated to academic or employment performance. 

It can be a comment or behaviour that is unwelcome or that has a negative impact on the person whether the person intended it or not. Harassment can be either a single, serious incident or a pattern of related, repeated incidents.

Examples of discrimination include:

  • Racist, sexist, or homophobic jokes or remarks
  • Repeated advances from someone after you have indicated a lack of interest (verbally, by email, texting or through other forms of social media)
  • Being mocked for your accent, culture, or religion
  • Consistently being mis-gendered or referred to intentionally with the wrong pronoun
  • Not being allowed to reschedule an exam when the exam date conflicts with your religious or spiritual observance
  • Being denied the appropriate accommodations if you have a disability
  • Receiving a negative evaluation because the instructor disapproves of your sexual orientation or cultural perspective

If you experience discrimination

First, understand you do not deserve what is happening

Harassment is unlikely to stop or go away if you ignore it. In fact, harassing behaviour may increase if the harasser feels that he or she can get away with it. It takes courage to address what is happening and the first step is to acknowledge that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Keep records

Remembering all the details of what happened can be challenging. Do not rely on your memory. Carefully record the details of the harassment as soon as it occurs. Also record any attempts to tell the person that the behaviour is unwelcome. Keep all harassing letters, gifts, emails, texts, voice mail messages, and more as evidence.

Seek advice and resources

UBC offers many services that can help you with your situation: 

If you witness an act of discrimination

A bystander is someone who observes a conflict, unacceptable behaviour, or unsafe situation. By taking steps to make a difference, you can be an active bystander and support those in the situation.

If you witness an act of discrimination, depending on the situation or your feeling of safety, you can employ any of the 5 Ds of bystander intervention: Distract, Delegate, Document, Delay, or Direct.

UBC Policies

Familiarize yourself with policies set out by the University, applicable to all students, staff, and faculty.

  • Policy SC7 Discrimination (pdf)
    Prohibits discrimination on a number of protected grounds including age, family status, physical or mental disability, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. 
  • UBC’s Respectful Environment Statement (pdf)
    Provides guiding principles to support an environment in which respect, civility, diversity, opportunity and inclusion are valued. This Statement addresses bullying and harassment not related to human rights grounds.
  • Policy SC3 Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment (pdf)
    Describes how faculty, staff, and students must act for research, teaching, and learning activities.

Getting advice and support