Before hearing the entire question, Yolande Chan gave a one-word answer to what the biggest obstacle will be for the newly formed Committee on Racism, Diversity and Inclusion: “time.”
The Committee, which Chan co-chairs, presented their recommendations for the future of Queen’s practices over the past week during a series of three open forum meetings with the University community.
Some of the recommendations presented included increased representation of equity-seeking and minority groups in both staff and faculty, as well as the establishment of the Alfie Pierce Centre for Racial Equality & Social Justice. The proposed centre would be a dedicated space on campus to honour the history and experiences of students of colour.
The committee was established by Principal Woolf in December of 2016 in response to a party that took place in the University District, which gained national attention for the controversial costumes that were worn. The committee has been tasked with reporting and implementing measures that will improve issues of racism, diversity and inclusion on campus.
Drawing parallels to Chan’s earlier comments, the meeting was rushed to incorporate the question period after the presentations of various panel members as the meeting was only scheduled for one hour.
“I regret that there was not more time for discussion,” Chan said after the second meeting took place on March 16, before adding that she was happy with the turnout.
The recurring theme of a time crunch is reflected by the Committee’s rush to get their key recommendations to move forward. “We know that the principal wishes to respond in a timely manner to the discussions that were started in the fall,” Chan said in an interview.
“We have been meeting sometimes as many as 20 hours in any given week,” she said. “We understand the constraint and we respect that, but in itself that has inherent limitations for us because we could say so much more if we had just a little more time.”
Chan noted that, at the first meeting, she believed a severe snowstorm warning hindered the attendance to approximately 30 people while Thursday’s forum attracted a crowd of at lesat 90. Finally, she stated that she was hoping for a turnout of as many as 100 on Monday.
As Chan puts it, the meetings were scheduled so that the community as well as the student body could have a chance to take part in the committee’s process.
“We believe that [the administration] are committed to change. It has been a long time coming and many are quite understandably disappointed but we believe that admin recognizes the need for action and is going to take it,” she said. “We expect that in April, right out of the gate, having received our report we are going to hear an announcement and there will be change.”
Despite being under a time constraint, Chan is confident that her committee will be able to represent the needs of both students and faculty alike.
“This committee is fully committed in every way to addressing the concerns that students have raised, and we thank them for their boldness and their courage. And we applaud those who have given us the opportunity to make a lasting change and help Queen’s be a more inclusive, welcoming, diverse community,” she stated.
“There will be no major stone left unturned. There may be a few pebbles, but the main ones will move forward.”
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