McGill University’s Committee on Student Grievances (CSG) recently ruled in favour of former McGill graduate student Amr El-Orabi, who returned to his native Egypt last November after alleged harassment from his supervising professor, Gary Dunphy.
According to El-Orabi, the harassment included a death threat and comments on his religion, some of which El-Orabi recorded. He said the incidents began in May of 2012, and culminated in his decision to leave McGill on Nov. 29. On Feb. 14, under the advice of McGill’s Ombudsperson for Students Spencer Boudreau, El-Orabi filed a grievance with McGill’s CSG the grounds of a death threat, intrusion of his privacy, and offences on his cultural and religious preferences.
El-Orabi told Global News Montreal that while he was pleased with McGill’s ruling, he had hoped for financial compensation for the $10,000 in travel and study expenses he incurred during his time at McGill.
“I did move on with my life, but I still have the feeling that this person ruined what I was looking for,” El-Orabi said, adding that he is now pursuing his Flight Inspector licence after recently graduating from the Egyptian Aviation Academy.
According to Global News Montreal, El-Orabi is considering a civil lawsuit to recoup his losses, and has been offered legal advice from the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
Professor Ken Ragan, chair of the CSG, explained in an email that El-Orabi did not follow the usual steps required to receive compensation.
“Redress is usually sought through established review or appeal procedures prior to launching a student grievance,” Ragan said.
As a member of the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM), the university’s teaching assistants’ union, El-Orabi had the option of filing his grievance either through AGSEM or through the university.
“Had AGSEM been able to file a grievance on Mr. El-Orabi’s behalf, with his permission, we certainly would have sought monetary compensation for the wages that he lost due to having to discontinue his teaching assistantship,” AGSEM Vice-President Suncica Avlijas said.
Avlijas explained that grievances filed through AGSEM proceed through a legal process under the jurisdiction of Labour Law, while those filed through McGill—as El-Orabi’s was—follow an internal process and are decided by the Provost.
Harassment and discrimination grievances must be submitted to AGSEM within 90 days of their occurrence, so El-Orabi no longer has the option of pursuing this route.
“We are […] surprised to hear reports in the news that Mr. El-Orabi did not receive any compensation for lost wages despite a decision in his favour,” Avlijas said.
According to Avlijas, AGSEM has been working to make members feel more comfortable filing grievances, such as informing TAs of their rights at orientation.
“We have taken steps to increase our accessibility to members, including adding union representatives at Mac Campus, speaking to new Teaching Assistants at orientations and welcome events, and making sure our delegates who are the union representatives within departments are aware of the issues and know how to deal with them,” Avlijas said.