Journalism, not just Ryerson, has a discrimination problem

An open letter from students alleges the Ryerson School of Journalism fails to properly represent and support BIPOC and LGBTQIA2S+ students. Ryerson should be paying attention—but so should journalism bodies as a whole.
 
Last weekend, the chairs of Ryerson’s School of Journalism stepped down just hours before the letter was released claiming the school creates an unsafe environment for BIPOC and LGBTQIA2S+ students within the program.
 
The letter lays out a very clear list of demands and actionable items. All Ryerson needs to do is listen and act.
 
Janice Neil, the former chair of the journalism school, cited actions Ryerson had committed to under her leadership—such as adding a class on race reporting and hiring more diverse staff—yet this is less than the bare minimum the school should be doing. Every journalism class, as opposed to just one, should already be addressing race, as opposed to just one, and the administration should be diverse in addition to staff.
 
Discrimination of marginalized communities also isn’t something that can be remedied with a singular action; it’s a systemic issue that will take a complete overhaul of the system to change. Ryerson needs to commit to that work—and shouldn’t be relying on marginalized students to do that.
 
The resignation of two chairs means little, especially considering they failed to take responsibility for their role in Ryerson’s unsafe environment. 
 
In her resignation letter, Lisa Taylor, the school's now-former associate chair, claimed “some students don’t believe that [she’s] in their corner.” While Taylor acknowledges that this is “truly inequitable,” she doesn’t offer an apology or attempt to have a conversation with the students she’s failed.
 
Her claim also wrongly puts the blame on students. The open letter makes clear marginalized students don’t feel safe or heard at Ryerson; if students weren’t comfortable going to the former chairs for help, that’s a reflection on the chairs themselves. She should have acknowledged that.
 
The open letter is the result of marginalized students’ time, work, and energy. The safer learning environment the letter calls for should be a given; it’s not something students should have to fight for. The work of these students should be recognized and honoured—something Ryerson can do by listening and acting productively.
 
But this isn’t just a Ryerson issue. Discrimination is a systemic part of journalism and needs to be addressed at every journalism school and newspaper, including The Journal. Newspapers everywhere are acknowledging how their operations systemically discriminate against marginalized communities, including publication giant The New York Times, which recently published a detailed Call to Action.  
 
Discrimination embedded in the system of journalism itself—not just at Ryerson—has gone too long unaddressed. Ryerson students’ open letter is a call to acknowledge that.
 
Journal Editorial Board
 

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.