Patrick Deane talks diversity & social equity at forum

First Principal’s Conversation focuses on Queen’s ability to “transform and uplift”

Principal Patrick Deane hosted his first open forum of the year on Jan. 14.

At Principal Patrick Deane’s first open forum of the semester on Tuesday, he answered questions about diversity and student equity groups.

The forums, which Deane calls the “principal’s conversations,” are a series of open meetings with the Queen’s community, hosted by Deane, to inform the University’s next long-term strategic plan. At this week’s conversation, held in Duncan MacArthur Auditorium, approximately 30 people were in attendance.

“Every year, the costs are higher, as are the things that help deliver education and facilitate research,” Deane told the audience. “For 10 years, we’ve worked very hard to consolidate the finances of the University and that has been very effectively done.”

Deane said he hopes in the new decade, Queen’s will expand its reach. “Universities exist to serve society not just in a narrow way. They exist not just to feed the economy. They exist to create a good and just society, and foster a society that we all want to live in.”

His other hope for Queen’s is that the University moves beyond tradition. “What should we be doing to enhance ourselves? What do we want to become?” he asked.

The first question was asked by David Niddam-Dent, ArtSci ’22 and student senate caucus chair.

“How can we improve diversity at the school, especially with regard to socio-economic background and financial accessibility?” Niddam-Dent asked. “How can we reach out to communities that don’t necessarily think of Queen’s as their first choice?”

Deane, who previously worked at Queen’s in 2005, began his answer by emphasizing the progress he believes Queen’s has made with diversity in his nine-year absence.

“But there’s very, very significant work to be done, and these things move really slowly,” he added. 

He said he believes the biggest problem in creating diversity at Queen’s among socio-economic groups is that many Queen’s students have legacies at Queen’s. “There are significant proportions of the student body who are dynastically linked to Queen’s.”

However, Deane pointed out that Queen’s was originally opened as a university meant for non-affluent students, and he intends for students of all socio-economic statuses to continue to attend the University. “Diversity is an admirable vision,” he said.

Matt D’Alessandro, ArtSci ’22, posed a question to Deane about student equity groups. “Student equity groups on campus do amazing work,” D’Alessandro said. “And I know that a lot of those groups have expressed concern that their work doesn’t get to the university level, so I wanted to hear your thoughts on opportunities for the University’s Human Rights and Equity Office and equity groups on campus.”

“That is a surprising observation,” Deane answered. “I’ve been at a number of Canadian universities and I’ve never been at a place where students had more of a role in setting the agenda for the university than is the case at Queen’s.”

Deane agreed that student equity groups on campus have an important voice. “Clearly, there is a need to bring students together with the administrative structures of the university,” he said. “There needs to be an open dialogue between students working on an issue and the university people who work on the same issue. It’d be much more effective if they were to act in collaboration.”

Deane also answered a question regarding Queen’s place in the wider Kingston community, saying he believes Queen’s must play an important role in the city. “Universities have the power to transform and uplift society,” Deane said.

Further questions came from students about outdoor education, and the difference between courses offered on-campus versus for online degrees. Deane directed their inquiries to the respective faculty deans.


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