Crafting an equitable future at Queen’s

Diversity and Equity Task Force Action Plan aims to create an inclusive climate

Director of Educational Equity and Diversity Projects and Chair of DET Adnan Husain says the DET Action Plan aims to create an inclusive campus climate.
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Director of Educational Equity and Diversity Projects and Chair of DET Adnan Husain says the DET Action Plan aims to create an inclusive campus climate.

This Friday, senior University administrators will spend a few hours learning about equity and diversity issues present on campus.

Principal Daniel Woolf, the Provost, the vice-principals and others will be taking part in a workshop to discuss integrating a diversity framework into large-scale decisions, like hiring.

This workshop is only the first step in a series of measures to be implemented by the Diversity and Equity Task Force (DET) Action Plan. Director of Educational Equity and Diversity Projects and Chair of DET Adnan Husain said the action plan is partly based on past reports about diversity and equity at Queen’s.

“We have a wealth of material going back two decades that has systematically suggested that Queen’s can make improvements to recruit and retain the best and diverse faculty, students and staff,” he said, adding that the Barry Report and the Henry Report are just two examples of past investigations into Queen’s ability to ensure an inclusive climate.

The Barry Report, also called the Final Report by the Principal’s Advisory Committee on Race Relations (PAC Report), was released in 1991 and highlighted systemic discrimination present at Queen’s. Its findings resulted in the creation of a Human Rights Office.

The Henry Report, released in 2006, addressed many of the same issues raised in the Barry Report and made general recommendations, such as recruiting a diverse faculty, to prevent and quell the systemic discrimination reported at Queen’s.

Husain said that despite this wealth of knowledge, Queen’s has not done as much as it could to improve inclusivity.

“Queen’s underperforms for providing an educational experience for diverse Canadians. I think the history of concentrating on this issue shows that it has been a relevant issue,” he said, adding that the difference with the DET Action Plan is its focus on implementing measures instead of simply making general recommendations.

“The point of the [DET action] Plan is to put into action some of the recommendations and other measures that might make a difference in improving the climate of inclusivity on campus,” he said. “There is a history of attention to this issue because there have been problems.

“We’ve come up with very specific and in some cases small and limited actions. Part of the problem is that some of the previous reports have made general recommendations,” he said. “This is a more actionable set of commitments that the University can commit to. The difference is the actions we’ve outlined are things that can actually be accomplished.”

He said given the University’s financial state, what is actually possible with limited dollars was a major focus.

“In this climate of budget cuts, there have been severe constraints on what we’ve been able to do,” he said, adding that initiatives including the creation of an inventory and sponsoring research on student orientation are cost effective strategies to make positive change.

According to the DET Action Plan, an Equity Response Team will be created in the coming months. The team will prepare a system of university protocols designed to respond specifically to “incidents of hate speech, or racial, ethnic, or religious bigotry manifesting in violence, vandalism, or threatening intimidation.” The Action Plan also called for the centralization of information regarding underrepresented populations at Queen’s and an increased access to this information. DET has created a guide outlining support programs available to students and information regarding financial assistance but Husain said there’s still work to be done on the inventory.

The guide is accessible online through the DET website and will be maintained by DET for the duration of the year, Husain said, adding that following this year, the maintenance of the inventory will be under discussion.

“The inventory does provide a resource for people interested with what exists at Queen’s,” he said. “[I want] something more user friendly. There are some very good programs and information on what student awards there are for people with a particular background. [We’re] finding ways to make it easier … access this information more easily.”

Husain said that the DET Action Plan has a section in reference to the academic planning occurring at Queen’s. He said the Principal’s ‘Where’s Next?’ document and the Academic Writing Team’s ‘Imagining the Future’ recommendations have both been considered.

“We tried to also connect our concern of diversity and equity to planning exercises taking place now,” he said. “It’s an opportune moment. We tried to put out that there are some real opportunities to make a more significant impact. The section that relates to academic planning—it’s there basically for the university as a whole to discuss and potentially embrace.”

The section of the DET Action plan related to academic planning includes recommendations for a diverse curriculum and campus discussions to facilitate this. Husain said he wants to see the integration of non-Western cultural ideas into current courses and possibly the creation of new, interdisciplinary courses which focus on learning from different cultures.

“We want programs tailored to students of all backgrounds who are confident they are included and valued at Queen’s … [we need to] reform and shape current programs to meet the needs of a diverse and changing Canada. Perhaps we can sponsor new and innovative ideas to accomplish this.”

Husain said the future of the DET includes the creation of a long-term plan of how to promote an inclusive climate at Queen’s. The plan will be released in April 2011.

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