EDII identified as most pressing issue in Queen’s 2020 Orientation Week

SOARB publishes report, forms EDII working group

The SOARB report highlights many of the major issues incurred during 2020 Orientation Week.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

The Senate Orientation Activities Review Board (SOARB) has released its annual report on Orientation Week 2020—with strong recommendations for orientation groups to focus on Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity and Indigeneity (EDII). 

The SOARB report is completed annually by a committee that works with various stakeholders on campus to ensure Orientation Week complies with Senate Orientation policies and objectives. It was released at the Senate meeting Feb. 23.

The report focuses largely on the transition to holding 2020 Orientation Week online and the demand for increased EDII and accessibility supports for participating students. SOARB members, who meet throughout the year, provide Orientation Week organizers with commentary, recommendations, and support.

The SOARB report highlights a number of questions regarding the culture surrounding EDII at Queen’s, identified by students in social media accounts like “Stolen by Smith” and “Erased by FEAS.” 

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

“Several of these stories revealed extremely damaging experiences with the culture of Queen’s Orientation,” the report said. 

READ MORE: ‘Erased by FEAS’ captures systemic discrimination in the Faculty of Engineering

According to the report, post-orientation surveys conducted by the Student Experience Office revealed that students who don’t identify as heterosexual or come from lower-income families experience higher rates of feeling excluded during Orientation Week.

SOARB implemented an EDII working group this year to further explore topics of EDII in Orientation Week. According to Ian Garner, co-chair of SOARB, the working group will address these EDII issues through action that is “concrete and substantial.” 

Garner said the working group has made a number of recommendations pertaining to communication, training opportunities, processes, and reporting/investigation procedures. 

Early this summer, the committees organizing Orientation Week will be required to provide SOARB with updates on their progress on these recommendations and the points made in the report. 

SOARB has also called on the University Senate to address the issue of ownership and governance surrounding Orientation Week. 

“Without a clear sense of who is responsible for ensuring that progress is made on this issue, and without the provision of adequate resources, making real progress is likely to be fitful and/or sporadic,” Garner wrote in a statement to The Journal. 

The report noted an ambiguity in the ownership of Orientation Week due to its multitude of stakeholders and the difficulties this creates in making Orientation Week a more equitable experience for students. 

The report also detailed the unprecedented challenges faced by those involved in planning 2020 Orientation Week. According to the report, despite the decision in late May to hold all activities remotely, organizing groups were able to transition their Orientation Weeks into online models that were “well attended” and “received praise from attendees.”

“We’d like to thank everybody involved in Orientation for their hard work. Every organizing group and student leader managed to pull off an online orientation in a difficult time last year, working hard to rethink their plans, research alternatives, and help first-year students acclimatize to studies and life at Queen’s,” Garner wrote.

Corrections

The original version of this article failed to acknowledge the efforts and labour of the student-led SOARB EDII working group, whose members include Kayla Melbourne, Charlotte Galvani, Richelle Ignatius, Dr. Laeeque Daneshmend, Deanna Fialho, and Mackenzie Birchard. An updated article will be published next week reporting on this group's labour over the past five months.

The Journal regrets the error.

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