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Editor's notebook: Diversity and inclusion

Editor's notebook: Diversity and inclusion

[photo of Andrea Gunn and Mona Rahman]
Editor Andrea Gunn and Guest Editor Mona Rahman. Photo: Bernard Clark

When I was asked to help Andrea with this issue, I reflected back on my student years at Queen's, as well as the stories I have collected from family and friends . My father-in-law came to Queen's from Barbados in the late 1950s. His experience on campus was such that he forbade his children from coming to this university. A decade later, my father arrived at Queen's as an international graduate student from what is now Bangladesh. His experience, during the Trudeau era that celebrated multiculturalism, and after the creation of the Queen's University International Centre, was a positive one in which he built many lasting connections.

My own experience on campus in the 1990s was also positive, with support and motivation to succeed academically. I never had a problem with religious accommodation, due, in part, to the connections that the Muslim community and previous generations of students and faculty had made with the university since, in the absence of a mosque in Kingston, campus was the centre of our activities. Fast forward another decade, though, and Queen's saw an increase in both Islamophobic and anti-Semitic acts. Today, with more discussions happening on campus and the culmination of the PICRDI and TRC reports, we hear more stories of individuals who are feeling excluded.

A university campus gathers people from all walks of life and from all over the world; it is the perfect environment to learn about perspectives that differ from our own. But in order to benefit, we need to listen to, and seek to understand, each other. The culture of an environment depends upon the people in it. A university, with its constant flux of people, has a dynamic culture, which may explain the drastically different experiences through the ages by different groups.

This year I served as interim co-chair of the University Council on Anti-Racism and Equity (UCARE) with Stephanie Simpson, with whom I have been discussing these issues off and on since our undergraduate years. UCARE members are passionate individuals who are striving to make our campus a more diverse and inclusive one. What has come out of our discussions is the need to change the culture of campus. It seems a daunting task, but I am confident that it is something that we can achieve if we can put down the foundations that will strive to maintain the spirit of inclusivity, no matter the ebbs and flows of the population. Part of that is listening to the perspectives of others. We cannot improve if we do not know where the problems are.

Members of our community, including members of UCARE, have agreed to share their experiences in this issue. This is just a small snapshot of the multitude of stories that are out there. I hope that you can read these stories with an open mind and heart. I have seen how building strong connections can form a community where individuals can feel confident in being who they are, be encouraged to explore different perspectives, and be able to respect the differences of others. You can't build bridges without meeting in the middle. Diversity and inclusivity enrich us as a community, but we need to work towards a sustainable culture that fosters them.

Mona Rahman
Guest Editor

[cover graphic of Queen's Alumni Review, issue 3-2018]