Ontario professor demands public apology for Playboy remarks made at convocation ceremony

Johanna Weststar questions the sincerity of the apology issued by both the school and philanthropist Aubrey Dan

A professor at a southern Ontario university says both the school and a recent honorary doctorate recipient have not offered sufficient apologies for what she describes as sexist remarks made at a recent convocation ceremony.

Johanna Weststar, associate professor of psychology at Western University, questions the sincerity of the apology issued by both the school and philanthropist Aubrey Dan after remarks he made during the ceremony last Friday.

While receiving an honorary doctorate, Dan joked that he chose to transfer to Western in the early ’80s in part because of Playboy Magazine’s assessment that women at the university were “among the best in North America” at the time. Dan added that “obviously they still are.”

Dan later issued an apology saying he did not mean to be sexist, describing himself as an egalitarian, and adding that the remark was meant to express “what went through my 19-year-old mind when deciding…to go to Western”

The university also issued a statement apologizing to anyone who was offended by the remarks and praising its “long-standing” relationship with Dan, whose name adorns its Department of Management and Organizational Studies where Weststar teaches.

RELATED: Former UBC prof files defamation suit over sexual assault allegations

Weststar says both Dan and the school only apologized for the fact that people were offended rather than taking responsibility for the content of the remarks.

She lambasted the school, in particular, for what she felt was a disingenuous position.

“I would like to see Western also make a public statement of apology that is not immediately tied to statements of Mr. Dan’s worth and commitment to Western,” Weststar said in an email. ”These issues are separate and saying sorry out of one side of your mouth while you endorse someone out of the other side is not enough. I recognize that Western would like to maintain their donors, but this should not come at the cost of compromising the integrity and reputation of the institution.”

The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Weststar’s criticism.

Weststar levelled similar critiques at Dan’s statement of apology, in which he said he did not intend to give offence and expressed his gratitude for the honorary doctor of laws degree conferred on him during Friday’s convocation.

Weststar said apologies should not contain a defence of what was said, adding Dan ought to “show that he is truly sorry for what he said in a way that reflects that he has given thoughtful consideration to the impact of his words.”

She also called on Dan, a Tony Award-winning theatre producer and entrepreneur, to apologize to her department in person since she and her fellow faculty members “live under his brand.”

When contacted by the Canadian Press, Dan said he has offered through an intermediary to speak with Weststar by phone to discuss the issue.

He also proceeded to outline the amount of money he said his Dancap Private Equity Research Fund has given her over the years, pegging the total at $8,449.82 since 2013.

“I’ve been very supportive over the years of Johanna’s excellent research work,” Dan said in an email.

RELATED: Controversial Nova Scotia professor fired after fire storm over comments

Weststar did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Dan’s financial figures, but said earlier on Wednesday that a personal discussion between them would not address her concerns with his convocation remarks.

“A direct apology to me, if that is what is on offer, is not going to solve the problem and actually makes personal and invisible an issue that is public and needs to be more visible,” she said.

Michelle NcQuigge, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Gwaii Haanas celebrates new Land-Sea-People plan

Forty per cent of Gwaii Haanas marine areas protected under new, integrated plan

Kitimat arena closed until further notice due to chilling system malfunction

Saturday night’s Terrace River Kings and Kitimat Ice Demons game was cancelled as a result

Northwest Regional Airport traffic increases

LNG announcement has sparked interest

Study being conducted on proposed railyard

Facility could offload up to 60 rail cars of propane daily

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

B.C. model looks a lot like expanded taxi industry, ride-hailing group says

Ridesharing Now for BC says it had hoped the bill would be more customer-driven like in other cities

Otter makes a snack out of koi fish in Vancouver Chinese garden

Staff say the otter has eaten at least five fish

731,000 Canadians going into debt to buy prescription drugs: UBC

Millennials and those without private coverage were more likely to borrow money

Pot users, investors need to be vigilant at Canada-U.S. border

U.S. authorities say anyone who admits to having used pot before it became legal could be barred

Shirtless stranger loomed over couch and started stabbing, bloody B.C. murder trial hears

Colin John pleads not guilty as trial opens in 2016 Chemainus murder case

ICBC warns shoppers of the high-accident season at mall parking lots

Over 150,000 accidents happened during the holiday season last year

No deal in sight: Canada Post warns of delivery delays into January

Union holds fifth week of rotating strikes as both sides remain apart on contract negotiations

COLUMN: Higher interest rates will slow B.C. economy after ‘unusually robust’ show

Jock Finlayson is executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Business Council of BC

Most Read