Equity report shows challenges, promise

University ‘struggling with a lot of equity and diversity issues,’ prof says

Senate Educational Equity Committee Chair and history professor Adnan Husain says the University needs more dialogue on issues of racial discrimination.
Senate Educational Equity Committee Chair and history professor Adnan Husain says the University needs more dialogue on issues of racial discrimination.

The Senate Educational Equity Committee (SEEC)’s annual report shows the University was more reactive than proactive with equity issues in the past year, committee chair and history professor Adnan Husain said.

The committee presented the report to University Senate on Oct. 22.

“The University was struggling with a lot of equity and diversity issues but I wouldn’t say that a lot of new initiatives were developed,” Husain said. “We lack a lot of concrete success.”

SEEC doesn’t have the authority to implement new practices in educational equity, he said, adding that the committee formulates policies and makes recommendations to University Senate.

In the past year, the committee focused on revising existing policy to strengthen the link between educational equity and academic excellence, Husain said.

He said proactive measures he hopes the University will consider include expanding recruiting to focus on traditionally under-represented groups or implementing a transitional program to draw students who wouldn’t otherwise apply for university.

“If there are groups that are under-represented in the institution then we have to ask why that’s the case and what can be done to improve participation rates of all constituencies in our society,” he said.

Husain said the committee talked about issues of racial discrimination on campus last year.

“In the last year, more time and attention went into responding to issues of racial discrimination,” he said. “We have to have more conversations and connect with radicalized students, faculty and staff about their experience here. … Keep our eyes and ears open to, ‘How are these groups faring?’”

Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane said one of his office’s initiatives last year was the Diversity Anti-Racism Equity (DARE) panel.

“[The panel was] established in the wake of some very contentious debates among the students about diversity and equity issues and brought forth a number of recommendations which will be implemented over the next year,” he said.

He said recommendations include the creation of transitional programs, making equity a more pressing issue in academic departments and increasing recruiting and scholarships.

Deane said equity measures in place include mandatory equity and diversity training for committees appointing deans and vice-principals. There are equity requirements for faculty hiring as well.

“In faculty hiring, under the collective agreement, there are requirements that an equity advisor serve on every committee and that an equity report be completed at the end of that process,” he said.

This year, Queen’s will also complete an audit of all action taken on the DARE report and other equity and diversity recommendations such as the 2005 Henry Report.

Written by Frances Henry, a professor emeriti at York University, the Henry Report reviewed surveys about the experiences of visible minority and Aboriginal faculty members at Queen’s.

The audit will identify which recommendations have been fulfilled and which areas still require action, Deane said, adding that it will be completed in the next six to eight months.

“We face difficulties other universities don’t, in part because of our geographical location,” he said, adding that he thinks universities located in more diverse cities such as Toronto have an easier time drawing together a more diverse campus.

“Because a university like ours is primarily residential, it poses economic and cultural problems for students who may not have the resources to cover the cost or may be reluctant to be at such a distance from their cultural community.”

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