Address campus racism at the root

Diversifying Queen’s population and academic curriculum are critical to ensuring that unintentional discrimination and racism don’t persist on campus.

In a recent Journal feature on the experiences of black students at Queen’s, seven of eight black students interviewed said they’ve felt alienated and excluded on campus because of daily microaggressions and a predominantly Eurocentric curriculum.

71.5 per cent of undergraduate students who registered in 2013 weren’t visible minorities, according to Queen’s Applicant Equity Census. The majority of Queen’s students have likely never been subjected to institutional discrimination or racism, and they likely have little experience interacting with different cultures within an academic environment.

It’s unacceptable that members of Queen’s population feel marginalized by their studies and the flippant behaviour of their peers — even if discriminatory comments appear to be unintentional and due to ignorance.

Feelings of alienation and exclusion on campus are hardly new.

Between 2003-04, nearly two dozen faculty members surveyed said they were treated differently because of their ethno-racial status.

The survey was conducted for the Henry Report, which concluded that “white privilege and power continue to be reflected in the Eurocentric curricula, traditional pedagogical approaches, hiring, promotion and tenure practices, and opportunities for research” at Queen’s.

Efforts should be directed towards diversifying Queen’s homogeneity at all levels — the administration, faculty and students.

Only 3.4 per cent of undergraduate applicants in 2013 were black, according to the Applicant Equity Census.

The University needs to better demonstrate that it has the infrastructure to accommodate a diverse population, including scholarships and other resources.

One recipient of the Robert Sutherland-Harry Jerome Scholarship — an annual award for black students who have demonstrated academic excellence — received the award automatically without applying. This shows that most students likely aren’t aware of the opportunities.

Diversity is also necessary within Queen’s faculty and teachings. The majority of curricula are Eurocentric and only introduce “foreign” topics in a tokenized fashion.

This can alienate and discourage students who don’t identify with these perspectives, and leave all students with only a surface understanding of critical race theory and other cultures.

Professors who can speak to oft-marginalized perspectives need to be employed to diversify course offerings.

Existing resources providers, such as Queen’s health services, need staff who understand critical race theory, to be able to appropriately support students who come to them with issues of race.

With historical roots deep in Scottish tradition, Queen’s has an entrenched homogeneity that can’t be diversified overnight. Traditions aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but when they suppress diversity and create feelings of alienation, there’s room for reevaluation.

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