If diversity isn’t Senate’s job, they can make it their responsibility

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It’s time University administration stopped skimming over the difficult issues that affect us all.

A student-written letter addressed to Senate regarding Queen’s lack of diversity in its faculty was brought up in a Senate meeting last week — only to be pushed off as not their problem.

Michael Blennerhassett, chair of the Senate Education Equity Committee (SEEC), dismissed the letter as being beyond his committee’s mandate. The issue was specifically referred to SEEC by Senate.

Senate’s dismissiveness is telling of a bigger problem with Queen’s administration. The reliance on sub-committees and task forces to dictate what the University should address means the University’s bigger troubles — an issue like faculty diversity that may fall under the mandates of many of these groups — end up falling through the cracks.

And yet, new task forces and working groups are constantly being created to meet the shifting demands of the University.

If there’s no room for this issue in a Senate discussion then maybe the University doesn’t value the issue enough to make room for it at all.

University administrators often push their students to stand up for the issues they believe in. When we do, and they’re promptly brushed under the rug, it fuels ongoing student apathy.

Diversity among our faculty — the ability for racialized students to see themselves reflected in the academics we hire — means more to students than Senate seems to think. It’s hard enough for students to come forward with students that they’re passionate about.

It’s even harder when those issues are ignored, time and time again.

By passing off responsibility, the University also turns down opportunities to have a nuanced conversation about a complex issue. Granted, the priority may currently be on simply hiring faculty to fill immediate needs and ensuring across the board non-discriminatory hiring practices. But the lack of diversity amongst Queen’s faculty is about more than just adding non-white bodies to the room.

It’s about the ratio of non-white professors to others who’re being granted tenure. It’s about how racialized faculty are treated by their peers and their students once they arrive. 

Likewise, it’s just as much about the diverse content of our courses as it is about the person at the front of the lecture hall.

For the department of English — which was specifically referenced in English alum Anisa Rawhani’s original letter to Senate — this means shedding light on diverse literatures and stories beyond its current Euro-centric curriculums.

Diversification of curriculum as well as faculty also happens to align with the University’s goals towards internationalization, but those plans should fixate on more than raking in international tuition fees. The goal is reflecting a global mindset in its classrooms.

Diversity may be simple to ignore on paper. But the reality can’t be swept under the table so easily.

Journal Editorial Board 

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