Principal Deane reflects on the Conversation in new report

Report focuses on the “intractable problem of racism at Queen’s” in strategy for transforming the University

Deane said the University is undertaking a number of anti-racist actionable items.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

Following a year of campus-wide consultations, Principal Patrick Deane released his report about the future of the University earlier this month. 

According to the report, called “Components of an Emerging Strategy: A Report on The Conversation,” the Principal’s Conversation—an initiative that ranged from individual consultations to public forums—was used to inform an integrated strategy for transforming Queen’s. 

“While developing a strategy for Queen’s over the next decade, we can focus simultaneously on cultural reform, community engagement, internationalization, and research, as well as on the cross-cutting question of where we wish to make our impact as an institution,” Deane wrote in the report.

The report said communication, trust, and generosity are foundational to community building, but noted Queen’s has struggled to maintain these values in recent years.

“[While] people may blame budgetary issues or history, it is just as important to acknowledge university structures and processes that amount to systemic racism and impede our ability to realize a good and just diverse community on our campus,” Deane wrote.  

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He addressed the profound campus-wide call for social justice reform over the past few months, reflecting that the demographic through which Queen’s was shaped and adapted no longer reflects the present diversity within the institution.

“[Once] overwhelmingly white, male, Christian and Eurocentric in its cultural configuration and colonial in its political structures, Canadian society demanded social and educational institutions that would mirror and disseminate those values,” Deane wrote. 

“[We] need to address once and for all the intractable problem of racism at Queen’s, and to entrench more broadly and deeply the principles of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Indigeneity (EDII).” 

He said the University is now engaged in “multiple actions that will lead to significant change.”  

Deane referenced the 2018 Report of the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity and Inclusion (PICRDI), which sought to consolidate and follow up on three decades of studies and initiatives intended to affect change. 

He said the PICRDI report was a testimony to the persistence of EDII problems at Queen’s. 

“While Black Lives Matter undoubtedly provided welcome impetus to the anti-racism movement at Queen’s this year, concern about the University’s reputation for whiteness and the lived experience of BIPOC individuals within our community were amongst the earliest issues raised in the Conversation,” Deane wrote. 

Deane’s report also highlighted Queen’s colleagues’ willingness to collaborate and support one another, noting community was a theme that came up repeatedly during the Conversation series with audiences including faculty, staff, students, and alumni. 

“It became obvious that no plan for the future of our institution would be likely to succeed if it did not build squarely on that,” Deane wrote. 

“At the same time, though, many complaints I heard bespoke the darker side of community. The Chown Hall incident, the ostracism of students from East Asian backgrounds during the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, and the experiences of racism recounted on the StolenbySmith Instagram site: all of this in the past twelve months was evidence that communities like ours define themselves as much by those they prefer to exclude as by those they choose to include.” 

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Dean stated that while the Conversation confirmed a sense of belonging is a currency valued on campus and in alumni networks, many members of the community don’t feel they’ve ever had a place at Queen’s.

 “[For these members], Queen’s is an institution ‘owned’ by the white, colonial constituency it was founded to serve. However, such elements are fortunately not prerequisites for community strength, and it is possible to imagine a Queen’s University buoyed up, vibrant and united by its unqualified joy in diversity, rather than hobbled by guilt or defensiveness in service to an inherited cultural paradigm,” Deane wrote. 

Deane said the overall quality of the Queen’s community is at risk due to behaviours including incivility, distrust, self-interest, and harassment in the workplace. 

“Paternalism weakened relationships between the institution and student groups,” Deane said, adding that it also influenced policy changes driven forward without “meaningful consultation.” 

The report noted Queens’ failure to gain traction on EDII as the most significant factor in negative perceptions of the University, resulting in recruitment problems at faculty, staff, and student levels. 

“Beyond the obvious worry that diversifying our community could become more difficult rather than easier with time, attracting the talent required to build our educational and research reputation could be in question,” Deane wrote. 

Deane also emphasized the deliberate integration of research into the undergraduate curriculum and an increase in the ratio of graduate to undergraduate students. 

“The important contribution that graduate students and postdoctoral fellows make to the vitality and success of the research enterprise at Queen’s needs to be reaffirmed and built upon,” Deane wrote. 

“Furthermore, undergraduate programs in which research skills and enthusiasm for discovery are cultivated will likely feed the growth of graduate programs and enlarge the pool of trained personnel to support research projects across the university.” 

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