Being a minority at the Smith School of Business

A commerce student details his experience within the program 

Bobby Liang says Queen’s commerce can marginalize new students.
Queen’s commerce’s roots as a traditionally white-dominated, expensive program has created many social pitfalls for its marginalized students. 
These stereotypes have encouraged an elitist culture within Goodes Hall. As a current commerce student, I’ve observed first-hand the ways in which being the “wrong” gender, race, or socioeconomic status can adversely impact the student experience in the program. 
According to the ComSoc Diversity and Inclusion office, approximately 90 per cent of Queen’s commerce students come from families that fall within the top 20 per cent of earned household income in Canada.
For a program that’s among one of the most expensive in Canada, lower income individuals are disproportionately affected when additional expenses such as textbooks, attending conferences, and going on exchange are taken into account.
It could be argued high tuition costs stem from the program’s abundance of resources, like alumni networking events, and extra-curricular activities that connect students to their interests and future job opportunities. 
However, many of these networking opportunities and club conferences happen outside of Goodes Hall—inaccessible to those who cannot afford the added price of transit and accommodation. 
Additionally, these opportunities are supposedly open to everyone in the program, but a gendered under-representation still exists.
Women represent over 48 per cent of the commerce student population, but hold only 32 per cent of executive positions on finance clubs—representing only a small fraction of the prestigious membership compared to men.
Anecdotally speaking, in my first week at Queen’s, I heard comments like, “Queen’s really played the diversity card this year,” alluding to the greater representation of visible minorities in the class of 2022. 
In another instance, I overheard my classmates talk about their dislike for the first floor of Stauffer Library because, “Asians swarm that floor.” 
This represents the underlying issue that blindly racist and discriminatory ideals are still present on campus, and they’re as a result of privilege. 
While in class we’re taught that diversity is an important part of building a better business, although this presents a positive sentiment, the toxic culture remains the same.
Comments like these, intentionally discriminatory or not, are made to marginalize and alienate students of colour. They actively take away my sense of belonging and threaten my ability to learn comfortably.
I’m made to feel there’s a target on my back merely because of my race.
The commerce program’s administration needs to take on a greater role in ensuring that equity and diversity be at the forefront of what it seeks to represent. 
In the future, protocols for clubs like diversity panels and inclusion officers could provide a more productive stance on behalf of the administration in denouncing racist comments, actions, and incidents.
To future students looking to attend Queen’s commerce, the program represents the pinnacle of Canadian high-society. The degree represents the ability for students like me—a second-generation Chinese Canadian—to seek upward social mobility through high-salaried jobs and greater career prospects.
But it’s these experiences and observations that have led a part of me to dread identifying myself with the program. It seems that social merit is rewarded only to those who meet the criteria of the traditional commerce student: someone who is white, privileged and male. 
That being said, this isn’t an indictment on the merits of all commerce students, as I’ve experienced an incredible amount of privilege throughout my life. My intent is solely to shed light on the many barriers students face when confronting the growing inequalities perpetuated by the stigma and racism experienced at Queen’s. 
No student should feel robbed of the dream to attend Queen’s commerce simply because their gender, race or socioeconomic class differs from what’s been normalized. 
Change will only come when we demand it. It’s time for commerce students to speak up.
Bobby Liang is a first-year Commerce student. 


March 23, 2019

This article falsely suggested an affiliation between the 2016 "racist costume pary", the Commerce Society, and All Year Social. The paragraph has been removed. 



The Journal regrets the error.

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