Queen’s can’t keep tracking EDI progress with retention rates

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As it stands, Queen’s measures whether or not it’s creating an inclusive environment through student retention rates. This needs to stop.

The most difficult part of implementing equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives is tracking whether or not they’re working. There’s no definitive way to measure whether a space is inclusive because that means something different to everyone. When it comes to tracking its own progress on EDI, Queen’s doesn’t seem to understand this.

I don’t mean to discredit the work of EDI leaders on campus, but at an institutional level, the Queen’s administration is taking the credit for the work of these folks and putting absolutely no effort into assessing the impact of their labour.

When you open up the Inclusive Queen’s site, you’ll find the measures being used to track EDI include representation rates of equity-seeking groups across students, faculty, and researchers, as well as retention rates for students from equity-seeking groups.

It’s abysmal that Queen’s is still measuring representation to prove it’s working toward an inclusive environment. Letting BIPOC into a racist space does not make that space less racist.

In terms of retention rates, Queen’s measures the percentage of undergraduate students from equity-seeking groups who return to Queen’s for their second year of study. This leaves out the experiences of graduate students, staff, and researchers and wrongly assumes that a student’s return to Queen’s indicates they’ve experienced a positive learning environment—which is complete bullshit.

As a person who grew up in a low-income community, I know it’s nearly impossible to get into Queen’s without access to the same opportunities as students from more privileged backgrounds which might allow them to get the experiences they need for admissions. I was lucky to find niche opportunities outside of school and to have a home life which allowed me to achieve a high academic standing.

All that being said, once I got into Queen’s, there was no way I was dropping out. My decision to return to Queen’s didn’t indicate I experienced a positive learning environment, but rather, that I’d worked too hard to be here and that I’d had too much financially and socially riding on my education to leave.

I, and other students from “equity-seeking groups,” work very hard and suppress a great deal of pain to continue our education. That’s a testament to our resilience and work ethic, not a testament to the EDI efforts of Queen’s.

Queen’s can’t keep using our presence at its institution to promote its EDI efforts or as an excuse not to do more.

Aysha is a third-year Commerce student and one of The Journal’s Features Editors.

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