At virtual town hall, executive director of Commerce says she has “no plans” to step down following calls for resignation

Smith administration discusses equity and diversity, role of Commerce Society at virtual town hall

Goodes Hall on Union Street at Queen's University in Kingston, ON.
Smith administration used Zoom to discuss which steps it will take to further EDII efforts following the launch of Stolen by Smith. 
Photo: 

Lori Garnier, executive director of Commerce, said she’s not taking the experiences shared on the Stolen by Smith Instagram page lightly. 

On June 16, at a virtual town hall organized by members of the Smith School of Business administration, she acknowledged there’s work left to be done in Goodes Hall when it comes to equity, diversity, inclusion, and indigeneity (EDII). Two hundred and sixty individuals were present at the event.

The faculty gathered through Zoom, an online video chatting platform, to discuss which steps it will take to further EDII efforts following the launch of Stolen by Smith in early July. 

The town hall opened with an introduction by Brenda Brouwer, interim dean of Smith School of Business. Ann Deer, Indigenous recruitment and support coordinator at the Faculty of Law and Smith, and Mofiyinfoluwa Badmos, diversity and inclusivity coordinator at Smith, were present at the meeting but didn’t speak.

READ MORE: ‘Stolen by Smith’ Instagram account details systemic violence at Queen’s business school

Participants were able to submit questions to Garnier and Brouwer about EDII at Smith. All submissions were screened by Laurie Ross, executive director of the office of the dean. Ross moderated the question and answer period, determining which questions were shared during the event and joining similar questions together. There was also an option for anonymous submissions. 

Early in the town hall, Garnier and Brouwer pointed to the EDII work that’s been undertaken at Smith in the past, including increased enrolment of international students to promote diversity, increased EDII content in the first and second-year commerce curricula, and the appointment of a dedicated Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator in 2019. 

Role of ComSoc in Addressing EDII

A number of participants submitted questions related to the Commerce Society (ComSoc), as many experiences shared through Stolen by Smith have accused the Society of permitting exclusive and discriminatory practices. 

Regarding the allegations, Garnier said she’s committed to holding students in ComSoc accountable for any non-academic misconduct.

“Anyone that comes into the Commerce office and speaks with me about any issues they have with ComSoc I take extremely seriously […] I have taken an active effort to put clubs forth or activities forth that fall outside of the student code of conduct. I will always hold students and clubs accountable to that,” Garnier said.

Garnier also said that to best address misconduct within ComSoc she needs to be informed about instances of misconduct by students. 

READ MORE: ComSoc releases Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion Course of Action

“I’ve worked tirelessly to curb these kinds of behaviour. I will continue to do that. I will do more of that, but I also have to find ways to get students to come in and talk to me so I can take active steps in that,” she said. 

Other participants asked if there were any plans to pay individuals within ComSoc who have helped inform Smith’s EDII platform. Garnier acknowledged the efforts of these students but explained that, like other faculty societies, there are no paid positions within ComSoc. 

When asked about whether ComSoc will issue diversity hiring quotas, which would specify a requirement for each executive to hire a specific number of BIPOC students, Garnier didn’t have an answer prepared. However, she explained that faculty will continue to hold “conversations with ComSoc on their focus and what they want to do moving forward.” 

Calls for Garnier’s Resignation 

Some posts on the Stolen by Smith page have called for Garnier’s resignation due to her allegedly insufficient responses to various past incidents of discrimination in Commerce.

“I have no plans to resign,” Garnier said. “I’m looking forward. I can speak authentically and truthfully to say I’m an advocate in the EDII space and I’m going to continue to push that forward. I truly care about the students in my program and I want to do right by them and move this forward to make these changes.”

Brouwer added it was unfair to pinpoint the issues highlighted by Stolen by Smith on just one faculty member. 

“It’s not an individual, it’s not a program […] This [page] has been a catalyst for change,” Brouwer said. “It’s already generated remarkable collaborative efforts.” 

The Journal inquired about calls for Garnier’s resignation July 10. Brouwer responded by pointing to the progress Smith has made in the past as well as the steps it intends to take moving forward. 

“Despite the progress made in recent years with changes to hiring processes, equity training, curriculum, new staff roles, and partnerships with external organizations, we know we must do more to create an inclusive, diverse and collegial academic environment at Smith […] We will regularly publish progress on the Smith EDII Task Force web page,” Brouwer wrote in her statement.

Smith EDII Task Force

Participants also noted the absence of student voices on the Smith EDII task force, which currently has only one student representative from the Commerce program in Seby Monsalve, ComSoc president. The task force met for its inaugural meeting July 10.

Brouwer said the task force will incorporate student voices to adequately address the needs of BIPOC commerce students. 

READ MORE: Following criticism, AMS & Rector share support for Stolen by Smith account

“The EDII task force is an umbrella task force,” Brouwer said. “In order to accelerate progress, there will be a number of working groups that will fall under the task force.”

Brouwer said working groups intend to conduct campus outreach to gather leads on potential EDII initiatives, covering specific areas within EDII to ensure a wide variety of solutions are implemented. 

She added that greater detail about these working groups will likely be made available on the Smith EDII Task Force page July 20.  

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