Nearly half of students perceive Queen’s as unwelcoming, Shift Survey shows

29 per cent of respondents reported facing discrimination

The Shift Survey report was released in September.

A greater number of students have considered leaving Queen’s University.

The University released the results from the 2023 Shift Survey on Sept. 21. The survey—first launched in 2021—reviews students’ perceptions of campus culture and safety. The Shift Survey investigates the Queen’s experience from an equity, diversity, and inclusion lens by considering responses through an intersectional framework.

The most recent report showed upticks in food insecurity and discriminatory experiences. The survey received 3,540 responses, representing 11.6 per cent of the student body. Most respondents were undergraduate students, with 20 per cent of respondents identifying as being graduate students.

Food Insecurity

While 49 per cent of respondents reported their perceptions of campus culture didn’t welcome or supported all students at Queen’s, 28 per cent of respondents couldn’t afford to buy more food after their supplies ran out. Sixteen per cent of respondents indicated the same result in the 2021 survey.

First-generation students and international graduate students experienced the most significant increase of students facing difficulties affording food supplies. The survey results show 47 per cent of first-generation students and 44 per cent of international graduate students were unable to replenish their food supplies, whereas only 29 and 27 per cent of these respective groups faced the same challenge in 2021.

Just over 11 per cent of respondents reported not having eaten for a full day since last school year began because they didn’t have enough money for food.

READ MORE: Data across the board suggests increased food bank usership

According to the report, 39 per cent of respondents couldn’t afford to eat healthy meals compared to the reported 24 per cent in the 2021 survey.  Of students who identified as Indigenous with a disability, 77 per cent couldn’t always afford nutritious meals.

Jennifer Ross, Shift Survey project manager, is particularly concerned with the notable rise in food insecurity.

“The University is committed to continuing to work with students to identify ways to […] support students experiencing food in security and housing insecurity,” Ross said in a statement to The Journal.

Harassment and Discrimination

Twenty-three per cent of respondents considered leaving Queen’s during the last school year, marking a two per cent difference from the 2021 survey results. According to the report, 49 per cent of respondents who considered leaving Queen’s reported experiencing a form of harassment and discrimination. Overall, 29 per cent of student respondents experienced harassment and discrimination, but only five per cent chose to formally report the incidents to the University.

The survey asked respondents who experienced harassment and discrimination why they didn’t file a formal complaint. These students primarily expressed they didn’t report because they didn’t believe action would be taken, they wouldn’t be believed or taken seriously, or the incident was serious enough to report, according to the survey report.

READ MORE: Queen’s updates harassment and discrimination policy

In 2023, 29 per cent of respondents said they experienced harassment and discrimination, compared to 18 per cent in 2021. Despite this, 94 per cent of respondents reported feeling safe on campus. Thirty-seven per cent of respondents felt their peers were insensitive and unsupportive of inclusivity at Queen’s.

“I feel that steps to educate students not of marginalized groups, both within and outside of the required courses, should be taken, as the social climate between students is where most impact can be felt by students of marginalized groups,” an undergraduate student said in an anonymous survey response.

According to the report, equity-deserving students, especially ones with intersecting marginalized identities, are the most impacted by campus culture and are in the greatest need of support.

Students suggested the University recruit more diverse members for faculty and staff positions and strengthen consequences for acting disrespectfully to improve the campus climate.

“More diversity is needed. I’m often the only person in my classes who looks like me. At times, this feels quite discouraging, and I find that I deal with subtle microaggressions often,” an undergraduate student said.

For Taryn McKenna, student inclusion and engagement coordinator, it’s important members of the Queen’s community read and reflect on the survey results.

“Taking the time to read and reflect on the 2023 Shift Survey results is one choice everyone can make in contributing to a campus where everyone feels seen and respected,” McKenna said in a statement to The Journal.

The Journal accepts Letters to the Editor or Op-Eds from all members of the Queen’s and Kingston community. Please submit Letters to the Editor at:


October 18, 2023

An earlier version of this story incorrectly interpreted information between the data in the 2023 and 2021 Shift Surveys. The 2021 Shift Survey was completed by a different pool of students than the 2023 survey.

The Journal regrets the error


Campus Culture, food insecurity, harassment and discrimination, shift survey

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