AMS & ASUS discuss anti-racist action with Queen’s senior administration

Principal Deane calls for a “redefinition” of Queen’s culture based on “difference and inclusion”

Principal Deane said there needs to be a “transformation” of the entire Queen’s culture.
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After a week delay, AMS Commissioner of Social Issues Angeli Sahi and Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) Equity Commissioner Ashanthi Francis hosted “No More: A Moderated Discussion with Queen’s Senior Administration” on Aug. 13.

The discussion, held over video-chat platform Zoom and open to the public, aimed to provide students with a direct channel for dialogue with members of senior administration. 

During an open question period, attendees were encouraged to submit live questions regarding the University’s response to marginalized community members, particularly QTBIPOC students. A question submission form was also provided prior to the event.

The event was attended by several administrators, including Principal Patrick Deane, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Mark Green, and Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Ann Tierney. 

READ MORE: Instagram removes ‘Smith White Business’ account which claimed to provide safe space for white Commerce students 

“Reading through [the posts on 'Stolen By Smith' and 'Erased By FEAS'] was extremely upsetting and distressing […] In my position, it’s not often you see into the daily experiences of students, and I was deeply moved,” Deane said. “[These accounts] record students having an experience they felt powerless to do something about. I am particularly perturbed by the reality [that] this is a widespread problem on our campus.”

Deane continued that while short term anti-racist actions will be taken, there needs to be a “transformation” of the entire culture of Queen’s.

“Community is linked to exclusion and marginalization. Queen’s is recognized for the strength of our community, but we have to expect a fundamental change to the way we define that community,” Deane said, noting Queen’s has historically been a “tight-knit” community because of its homogeneity.  

“Once we alter that homogeneity, the definition of community must and will change for the better. We need a redefinition premised on difference and inclusion,” Deane said. 

Deane added the University is open to a model that would compensate students for equity work but hasn’t yet determined what form that option might take.

“Students are a vital part of driving change, and I recognize the burden on them, so we will do everything we can to provide financial and otherwise supports to them,” he said. “I’m more than open to the idea of compensating individual students for their work on the anti-racism front.” 

Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion) Teri Shearer, Associate Dean (Student Life and Learning) Corinna Fitzgerald, Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning) Jill Atkinson, and Associate Vice-Principal (Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion) Stephanie Simpson were also in attendance. 

There was also representation from individual faculties, including Dean of Arts and Science Barbara Crow, Dean of Engineering and Applied Science Kevin Deluzio, Interim Dean of Smith School of Business Brenda Brouwer, Executive Director of Commerce Lori Garnier, and Associate Dean of Teacher Education Peter Chin.

‘Erased by FEAS’

Speaking to areas of improvement within the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science (FEAS), Deluzio thanked students who have shared stories on 'Stolen By Smith' and 'Erased By FEAS' for their courage. 

“To hear our community and culture is negatively affecting many in our community is challenging to hear, but it is a call to action, and is serving as a catalyst to change,” he said, emphasizing the need for university-wide participation in anti-racist work.

READ MORE: How ‘Erased by FEAS’ is uniting the voices of BIPOC Engineering students

Deluzio noted that anti-racist curriculum has been recently embedded into first-year, faculty-wide courses, but acknowledged more work needs to be done. He also said cultures and diversity vary across the eight departments in the FEAS and should be treated accordingly. 

“Engineering is solving problems for society,” Deluzio said. “To understand the social aspects of our work is really important. We might be able to do some of that [more intentionally] through our Arts and Humanities courses.”

Deluzio also spoke to recent efforts to increase the diversity of faculty through hiring. 

“It’s important for students to see themselves in the faculty that’s teaching them,” he said.

Green, a Queen’s alum, shared the changes he’s witnessed at Queen’s since he graduated in 1987.

“Since my time [as a student], very negative things have been removed from official practices, but I am concerned they have been moved underground,” Green said.  

Green pointed to Orientation Week and “bar culture” in Engineering as two particular areas for concern and improvement, as well as the need to ensure faculty and TAs teach without bias and that racialized faculty and TAs have access to the same resources as racialized students.

‘Stolen by Smith’

Acknowledging the stories shared through 'Stolen by Smith,' Brouwer said she has encouraged Smith School faculty, staff, alumni, and advisory board members to “read, listen, contemplate and reflect on the experiences being reported.” 

READ MORE: ‘A safe haven’: The impact of Stolen by Smith, as told by QTBIPOC students & faculty

She said the Commerce program is working to create places students can go if they experience discrimination, as well as a procedure to ensure those who report incidents know what response to expect.

When asked about the prevalence of students in Commerce who come from a small group of private schools, Garnier said the administration needs to “look at barriers in [its] admission’s process” and what they can do to support and educate students about what they look for in applicants.

Brouwer added that Smith School of Business is looking to implement unspecified “targets and metrics” in recruitment and enrollment.

“There is a huge unmet demand for financial assistance, and there is a question whether we should alter needs-based assistance not only to help students get [to Queen’s], but fully participate once they are here—that’s the inclusion piece,” Brouwer said.

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