Ryerson report rings true for Queen’s

Racism review ‘more comprehensive than anything Queen’s has done to date’

Jeff Welsh, former Society of Graduate and Professional Students president, says he thinks Queen’s needs to learn from Ryerson University’s comprehensive report on racism.
Jeff Welsh, former Society of Graduate and Professional Students president, says he thinks Queen’s needs to learn from Ryerson University’s comprehensive report on racism.
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Journal File Photo

A new report on racism from Ryerson University has people talking about issues of diversity and discrimination on the downtown Toronto campus.

Former Queen’s Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) president Jeff Welsh said he thinks Queen’s could learn something from the 107-page report, which offers recommendations to improve inclusivity at Ryerson.

“It’s more comprehensive than anything Queen’s has done to date,” Welsh said.

The Final Report of the Taskforce of Anti-Racism was released on Feb. 9 by the 12-member task force, which includes Ryerson students, staff and faculty. It was commissioned in 2008 after a series of racist incidents occurred on the campus.

Welsh said he thinks the strength of the report is how it includes issues pertaining to faculty, staff and students, adding that past reports from other schools, including Queen’s, haven’t been as comprehensive.

“What I see as the great strength of the Ryerson report ... is it at least attempts to incorporate issues for students, staff and faculty in a holistic fashion and students, staff and faculty have some of their own specific issues,” he said. “They’re trying to be strategic rather than putting out little fires here and there or only dealing with little pieces of the puzzle.”

Welsh said he thinks it isn’t effective to examine racism while ignoring the opinions of certain groups on campus.

“Any attempts to deal only with one group and leave all the others out is in the end going to short-change everyone because you’re not going to end up with a good overall strategy and you’re not going to end up with a good overall process,” he said.

Queen’s has released reports on campus racism in the past, such as the Henry Report, which was commissioned by former Vice-Principal (Academic) Suzanne Fortier in response to an incident of racism that caused a woman of colour on the faculty to leave Queen’s. The report, released in April 2004, was based on a study conducted by Frances Henry of York University in 2003 that gathered responses from faculty members about issues such as diversity, inclusivity and employment equity at Queen’s. Other reports to come out of Queen’s include Towards Diversity and Equity at Queen’s: A Strategy for Change (1991), the Senate Educational Equity Committee (SEEC) Response to the Henry Report (May 2006), Review of the Harassment/Discrimination Complaint Policy and Procedure of Queen’s University (November 2007), Achieving Employment Equity at Queen’s Part 1 (May 2008), Achieving Employment Equity at Queen’s Part 2 (October 2009), Queen’s University Diversity, Anti-Racism and Equity (D.A.R.E.) Report (May 2009) and the SGPS Student Advisor Case Summaries: 2004-2008.

The D.A.R.E. report was based on the findings of a panel struck by the offices of the principal and vice-principals. The report includes 12 short-term recommendations and eight long-term recommendations.

Ken Wang, AMS vice-president (operations) 2008-09 and ArtSci ’09, said he would like to see the short-term recommendations of the D.A.R.E. report implemented in the near future.

Wang is also the co-chair of the Queen’s Coalition against Racial and Ethnic Discrimination (QCRED).

“I should hope that the administration will take those seriously and follow through on every one of them,” he said.

The recommendations include making diversity prominent on the University website, hosting an annual luncheon for new and pre-tenured racialized faculty, establishing an annual $25,000 fund for students and student groups that pursue anti-oppression initiatives, a Journal of Critical Race Inquiry to be published by the University’s Human Rights Office, a series of brown bag seminars to talk about anti-racism and diversity, diversity training for student leaders and a partnership with the Queen’s University Faculty Association to raise awareness about inclusivity issues.

Some of the recommendations, such as renaming the Policy Studies Building in honour of Robert Sutherland, have been implemented.

Wang said he thinks it’s crucial for the administration to not only create reports like D.A.R.E., but to actually look at what the reports are saying.

“It’s worthwhile for the administration to not just pay lip service to these reports but rather put tangible measures into practice and make sure that anti-racism is a core component of the business that the administration does,” he said. “Actions definitely speak louder than words.”

Wang said he doesn’t think Queen’s campus is a safe place for people of colour and marginalized people.

“There’s been well-documented incidents of homophobia as well as various powwow keggers and things like that, or even people being shoved on the streets or called names,” he said.

Wang said he thinks student input is a necessary component of campus reports on racism. “Whenever it comes down to these reports I think the experience, especially of marginalized people, is important because it’s the basis on which we can act to make it an anti-oppressive environment at this university,” he said. “You have to be first willing to listen to the experiences of these people before you can take effective action.”

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