Racism, Diversity & Inclusion final report brought to Senate

University District

What you need to know about the implementation committee’s recommendations

A protest outside of Senate on Nov. 29, demanded immediate action, leading to the commissioning of the Principal's Committee on Diversity, Racism and Inclusion.
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After 12 weeks of intensive consultations and drafting, the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity and Inclusion (PICRDI) presented its final report to Principal Daniel Woolf on April 10, outlining a potential future for racial inclusion at Queen’s. 

The report is extensive, spanning 118 pages. The Journal has prepared a breakdown of some of the major points and recommendations coming out of the committee, as well as a briefing on the process and reception behind the report itself. 

History and process

Following racially-charged incidents on and off campus last semester, the committee was charged with identifying amd eliminating barriers to implementing the recommendations of past report.

The Committee’s report includes the 2009 Diversity, Anti-Racism, and Equity (DARE) report and the Diversity and Equity Task Force (DET) Action Plan from 2010-11, as well as previous reports where applicable. 

PICRDI’s work began in early January 2017, and the report was delivered to Woolf on April 10. PICDRI members Hana Chaudhury, Laeeque Daneshmend, Nilani Loganathan, Dev Aransevia, Yolande Chan and Tim Tang represent Queen’s faculty, staff and student bodies. 

The group met one to four times each week, for times typically ranging from 90 minutes to three hours. Consultations with broader groups began on Jan. 16 and spanned until April 5, five days before the final report was delivered to Woolf. 

In the report’s introduction, the committee acknowledges, “that it was the quiet voices of students at the November 2016 Senate meeting that served as a catalyst for the formation of PICRDI.” At a meeting of Senate at the end of November, protesters convened on the front entrance of Robert Sutherland Hall to demand immediate action on racism at Queen's. 

The report begins by listing the observed barriers that hindered the implementation of previous reports like DARE and DET, which they identify as: neglect of these issues; under-resourcing of the Human Rights and Equity Office; lack of use of granular race-based data; lack of accountability for the University; the reluctance of many faculty, students, and staff in under-represented groups to come to Queen’s; and the geographical location of the University in Kingston.

New programs and initiatives

PICRDI recommends that the University establish the Alfie Pierce Student Centre for Racial Equity and Social Justice, similar to the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, to support racialized students and provide areas for various student-led groups to engage in discussion and collaboration towards anti-oppression efforts.

Student Wellness Services (SWS) has been tasked with establishing a Diversity Peer Educators program under a “Cross-Cultural Advisor”, modeled after the Peer Health Educators program, which is intended to empower students and facilitate conversations surrounding diversity in the community.

The committee also recommends the creation of the University Council on Anti-Racism and Equity (UCARE), responsible for coordinating, reviewing, and reporting on the progress of sustained University-wide initiatives to address issues of racism, diversity and inclusion.

The UCARE will be a forum modelled after bodies like the Aboriginal Council, to bring forward and discuss issues of anti-racism and equity on and surrounding campus. 

University accountability

Over the next year, PICRDI urges the Principal, Provost, and Deputy Provost to make a concerted effort to revise the University’s strategic documents and plans to include clear language indicating that anti-racism, diversity and inclusion are intrinsic parts of the vision for the future of Queen’s.

Specifically, the committee recommends that the Student Code of Conduct be revised to fully define harassment and discrimination and specifically indicate that even indirect and apparently neutral practices that have an adverse effect on equity seeking groups qualify as discrimination.

In order to sustain these initiatives, PICRDI recommends that by 2018 or 2019, the Deputy Provost hire a dedicated individual to fill a new position — Associate Vice-Principal (Equity) — to be held accountable for equity, diversity and inclusion at Queen’s.

Recruitment, hiring and retention

The University has been tasked by the committee with increasing outreach and recruitment efforts targeted towards students in underrepresented groups and students from a broader range of socioeconomic circumstances.

This will involve providing increased financial aid for racialized students, as well as establishing a Transitional Year Program for students with non-traditional academic and social backgrounds to help integrate them into the Queen’s community.

In terms of hiring faculty, PICRDI recommends the development of “a special program to recruit black faculty,” and have identified other universities pursuing similar goals of targeted hiring. 

Further efforts to attract and retain these faculty members include the establishment of a grant for racialized faculty members and/or students who are engaged with researching or teaching about race or Indigeneity, as well as a renewed focus on black studies on the part of the Queen’s National Scholar Program.

Training and education

The committee asks for the addition of mandatory anti-racism and anti-oppression training for all first-year students during Orientation Week, as well as for all student and residence leaders involved in Orientation Week.

Senior officers of the University are recommended to receive mandatory equity training, along with additional modules to accompany progress in rank and seniority.

PICRDI recommends that all training programs for staff and faculty be revised to incorporate equity and inclusion at their core, and to build the capacity for intercultural competence and inclusion.

Culture and climate at Queen’s

To improve the culture and climate at Queen’s, PICRDI recommends that the University increase the visibility of equity and inclusion goals and resources on their website, as well as increase financial support for the Journal of Critical Race Inquiry, an initiative of the Human Rights Office.

The committee also recommends that the University coordinate with various student groups to host a series of “brown bag seminars” — an original recommendation from the DARE report — featuring talks delivered by researchers and experts regarding equity, diversity, and inclusion.

PICRDI also asks that senior administrators encourage and support the AMS Executive to introduce the creation of an equity agenda within the job description of the AMS Social Issues Commissioner.

Increased staff capacity to address equity and inclusion

The committee has tasked SWS with adding a minimum of one or more counsellor to their staff who is capable of addressing the mental health needs of racialized students, along with their associated intersectional needs.

Other recommended capacity increases include: the addition of an Anti-Racism Advisor and an Education and Communication Advisor in the Human Rights Office; an Undergraduate Admission Coordinator to work specifically towards recruiting and admitting students of underrepresented groups, and; additional resources for the Centre for Teaching and Learning to consistently diversify curriculum.

Reception 

The report was first formally presented at the meeting of Senate on April 18, where members of the committee were present to answer questions and debrief Senators on the recommendations. 

“It’s been a really hectic but critical twelve or so weeks,” co-chair Chan began, then recognizing the work of previous committees whose work formed a foundation for PICRDI. “There was never, in our view, malicious intent, but there was perhaps a lack of prioritization.” 

Daneshmend took over for the first portion of the report breakdown, telling Senators that Queen’s leadership needed to be directed and incentivized to follow through with the recommendations, unlike the over 20 years of reports forming PICRDI’s foundation. 

After the presentation, which outlined several of the above initiatives, Woolf explained that in coming months, it would be the task of himself and Provost Benoit-Antoine Bacon to work on a long-term plan for the next handful of years, to discuss how quickly some of the recommendations could be implemented and in what order. 

The pair will report back to Senate in the fall with their findings. “I do take the report and its recommendations very seriously and it will be the expectation on my colleagues that they do likewise,” he said. 

Woolf pressed heavily on the revisiting of Orientation Week during his response. “I believe the time has come for a fundamental change,” he said, comparing the changes ahead to last year’s overhaul of the non-academic misconduct system. A group similar to the ACNAM group that consulted on the overhaul of the non-academic misconduct system is warranted, to him, when approaching Orientation Week changes. 

In a question period, AMS Board Chair Quinn Giordano suggested that the University should be cautious of any reporting measures on hiring not alienating those who are hired under diversity targets, to which Deputy Provost Teri Shearer responded that the equity office was taking precautions. 

AMS President Tyler Lively delivered concerns to Senate on behalf of SOARB co-chair Brandon Jamieson, who felt that the recommendations regarding SOARB were specific about its terms of reference and compositions, but the co-chairs and committee felt inadequately consulted. 

Jamieson, via Lively, noted that there was a misunderstanding about SOARB’s role as a governance body rather than an operational oversight committee. 

Lively then noted his own concerns on behalf of the AMS, that specific recommendations moved outside of the abilities of the organization’s governance structures and current practices. For example, a change recommended for the Social Issues Commissioner role would add a responsibility to draft equity agendas that Lively felt wasn’t possible due to current restrictions. 

“It’s our view that these recommendations should not be held as a sort of concrete standards,” Lively said. “Though we do agree with the spirit of these recommendations, they may not be able to be carried out.” 

Chan responded to both concerns, noting that the committee did their best to consult with different groups with the limited time they had available. “It is with reluctance that we don’t always agree with the input given to us,” she noted. 

Daneshmend responded to Jamieson’s concerns, noting that as a current SOARB member himself, it was clear that the group had strayed from the terms of reference approved by Senate, and any terms of reference they created themselves weren’t able to be upheld. 

Chaudhury closed out the discussion, noting that the changes in the Social Issues portfolio arose from a meeting with former Social Issues Commissioner Lea Keren, intended to incorporate issues of race and inclusion into the institutional memory of the AMS. 

Their intent with the recommendation was to ensure that PICRDI’s changes are University-wide, despite current restrictions, rather than solely concentrating on the most senior administrators.

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