ASUS calls for discussion of BIPOC student experience

Equity Focus Groups will be used to inform policy, advocacy, and resources

Students will be compensated for participating.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

The Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) has issued a call for discussion of the BIPOC student experience at Queen’s, both on and off-campus. These conversations will be facilitated in Equity Focus Groups­—BIPOC-only spaces which will be used to inform policy, advocacy, and resources. 

Focus groups will run with approximately seven students present, speaking in a confidential and safe space over Zoom, Samara Lijiam, ASUS director of student affairs research, told The Journal. 

Lijiam expressed the hope that running the sessions in groups would provide a safer, more intimate environment where students could participate in a more conversation-style consultation. This approach will provide a broader data collection than a survey could. 

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“These are very emotional and triggering topics, so we also want to emphasize wellness and will be providing resources for participants afterwards,” Lijiam wrote. 

Students will be paid $25 for participating in the 90-minute focus groups. Though not related directly to the possibility of a Worker’s Academic Credit, Lijiam explained that financial accessibility was a leading factor in compensating student participants. 

“I really felt it was important because students, especially BIPOC students, perform so much free labour for equity at Queen's, and we really wanted to make sure we properly compensated participants for their time and emotional labour.”

Lijiam will moderate these groups alongside Isabela Rittinger, intern to the ASUS Equity Commissioner. There will also be two notetakers present, as the groups won’t be recorded for privacy reasons.

“I really want to emphasize that this is not another listening session. This focus group is being based on tangible policy ideas and the student data from these focus groups will allow us to better advocate for equity policies,” Lijiam wrote.

Ashanthi Francis, ASUS equity commissioner, noted that Society executives have been provided with opportunities to engage frequently with members of the faculty, regarding all aspects of Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity, and Indigeneity (EDII) at Queen’s, particularly the experiences of BIPOC students within the classroom.

“Accountability, accommodations, training, and support are not new issues within our faculty, and we certainly discuss them quite frequently in these meetings,” Francis wrote. “However, our personal experiences at Queen’s do not reflect even a fraction of the diverse experiences of BIPOC students within the Faculty of Arts and Science.”

READ MORE: ASUS report looks at improving student experience with remote learning

According to Francis, the data collected within these focus groups will aid in informing collaborative advocacy work and ensuring the Society can enact change to quantifiably support BIPOC students.

Francis cited Anita Jack-Davies, newly-appointed assistant dean of equity, diversity, and inclusion, as a supportive resource for this research. Jack-Davis has expressed interest in using this data to accompany pushes for increased support and services for BIPOC students within the faculty.

“On the subject of integrating more equity knowledge into every Arts and Science degree, we are currently looking at the possibility of creating a menu of equity courses of which students must take one,” Francis wrote.

Regarding accountability in the classroom, Frances said the Society is exploring different options for student support, including the creation of a tiered system to report complaints.

However, Francis emphasized the critical need for BIPOC students to share their experiences in a secure setting to determine the value and execution of these initiatives.

“To put it more briefly, the insight that students provide us with in these focus groups will inform the initiatives that the faculty takes on, demonstrate the urgency of these initiatives and most importantly ensure that we are making changes that address the specific needs of BIPOC students, rather than acting performatively,” Francis wrote.

Focus groups are currently open for registration and will run until Nov. 27. 

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Corrections

This article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Isabela Rittinger's name and her correct position.

The Journal regrets the error.

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