Celebrating Pink Shirt Day: Promoting acts of courage

The following remarks were delivered at the annual Vice-President, Finance and Operations Pink Shirt Day event held on February 28, 2024.

Good morning, everyone.

My name is Arig al Shaibah (she/her), and I oversee the Equity & Inclusion Office with team members on both Vancouver and Okanagan campuses.

I am grateful for the generosity of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil- Waututh) and Syilx (Okanagan) Peoples on whose traditional, ancestral and unceded territories we have the privilege to live and work.

Thank you for inviting me to make remarks on this national Pink Shirt Day, which gives us an opportunity to pause to reinforce our value for inclusion and our commitment to preventing and addressing bullying and harassment in our communities and our workplaces.

There are many types of bullying and harassment – physical, verbal, sexual, social, and cyber bullying or harassment.

All of these forms contravene UBC’s Respectful Environment Statement, and some may contravene our Discrimination Policy if the behaviour denies opportunities to or unfairly treats individuals or groups on the basis of one or more protected characteristic, such as race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, and political belief for example.

Bullying and harassment create a hostile or intimidating environment.

We all have a responsibility to check our own behaviour, and we are invited to seek out help or consult if we are experiencing or have witnessed this kind of behaviour.

However, I do want to take a moment to talk about the role of leaders in modeling and fostering respectful behaviour.

This year’s theme is Acts of Courage.

According to a study conducted by Deloitte – a consulting firm –  courage is one of six core qualities of inclusive leadership.

If we are to succeed in preventing and addressing bullying and harassment at UBC, these six qualities are so important to cultivate in all of us, and especially in leaders:

  • The first quality is Commitment – a commitment to inclusion because it aligns with our personal values and because we know inclusion enriches our community and organizational health and success;
  • The second is Curiosity, that comes with empathy an openness to different and divergent perspectives;
  • The third is Cognizance, or awareness of personal biases so that we can ensure we are making fair, transparent, consistent, and equitable decisions;
  • The fourth is Cultural Intelligence, which grows with a drive to learn about different cultures and to become more capable of engaging across diverse communities;
  • The fifth is Collaboration, to empower others so that they feel comfortable to use their voice and contribute in teams; and
  • The sixth is Courage – the courage to speak up and challenge the status quo and to have the humility to acknowledge the limitations of our own experiences, knowledge, or skills.

A respectful climate requires all individuals to develop these inclusive qualities and to regulate their behaviour but, more importantly, it requires leaders to work hard to shift the culture by disincentivizing bullying and harassing as well as discriminatory behaviour.

These are difficult and emotionally fraught times, when individual behaviours and organizational culture profoundly matter to student, faculty, and staff success as well as to the university’s vibrancy and vitality.

Courage invites us contribute to “brave spaces” – to foster constructive engagement and dialogue across difference.

I know that during these times we can feel at a loss for whether and how to respond, and I want to reinforce that we will always do better in these situations if we focus on the six qualities I mentioned, and if we insist on showing care and compassion for each other.

I hope today serves to strengthen our collective efforts to create the kind of respectful, inclusive, safe and brave campus environment we all deserve.

Thank you!

Arig al Shabiah, (she/her)
Associate Vice-President, Equity and Inclusion