Update: We have updated this story to include responses from Aubrey Dan and Western.
While giving what we assume was meant to be an inspiring speech at a fall convocation ceremony at Western University, a man receiving an honorary doctor of laws degree seemingly couldn’t help but slip in a sexist comment.
During his acceptance speech, Aubrey Dan, president of Dancap Family Investment Office, noted that Western wasn’t his first choice for a university when he was in high school but he ended up enrolling in the administrative and commercial studies program in the faculty of social sciences.
“I really liked that the ACS was in the social sciences, focusing on the people side of the business,” Dan said. “Besides, according to Playboy Magazine, at that time, ‘the women are among the best in North America’ and obviously they still are.”
The comment elicited chuckles from faculty members onstage with Dan, as well as some from the crowd. Somewhat ironically, it came shortly after Dan stated his “life’s ambition is to help people find their own human potential.”
On Twitter, Lesley Bikos, a PhD candidate in the faculty of social sciences at Western called out Dan for his “tone deaf comments” as well as the faculty for reacting with laughter.
“I am so deeply disappointed in these events. Our students deserve better and as an institution we must stand up to all forms of oppression,” she tweeted, noting that the Dean of social sciences could be seen laughing at the comment “in a time where women across the world are exposing the harmful impacts of everyday sexism. This is unacceptable and must be addressed by @WesternU immediately.”
Dan told VICE he included the Playboy comment "to provide a context of what a 19 year old goes through their mind when making a decision back in 1983" and that it "had nothing to do with being sexist at all."
"I presume that you’re in favour of free speech in telling my story from a historical perspective," he added.
He has received previous media coverage for his failed theatre company, Dancap Productions, and his charity work. The Queen's University School of Drama and Music is named after him. He also has a tendency to wear fedora hats in public.
At around 7:30 PM Tuesday evening, Western sent VICE a statement in which both Dan and the school apologized if anyone was offended by Dan's remarks.
"Western values a respectful learning and work environment and we sincerely apologize to those who attended this Convocation ceremony and all others who were offended by these remarks," the statement said.
However, the statement also defended Dan's reputation.
"Western has had a longstanding relationship with Mr. Dan — that includes his tireless efforts to encourage and support thousands of students at Western — and that dedication to Western was honoured during the ceremony last Friday."
Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.
Sign up for the VICE Canada Newsletter to get the best of VICE Canada delivered to your inbox.