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Building community at the castle

Staff, students, and faculty at the Bader International Study Centre are working together to foster equity, diversity, and inclusivity.

A group of students are welcomed to the BISC at Heathrow Airport. (Supplied Photo)
A group of students are welcomed to the BISC at Heathrow Airport. (Supplied Photo)

Multi-faith space; training for staff, students, and faculty; and more people resources dedicated to equity, diversity, and inclusivity are on their way to the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) this fall.

These new additions to the castle community came about as a result of efforts on the part of staff, students, and faculty working to build a more inclusive campus.

In 2016, a one-time BISC University Inclusion Committee was struck to study these issues and come up with some recommendations. Since that time, the BISC’s Vice-Provost and Executive Director, Hugh Horton, has followed up by establishing a standing Vice-Provost’s Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity.  

“This committee will be working over the next three years to support senior management in their development of a strategic plan for ensuring the promotion of access, inclusion, and diversity on the BISC campus; and to provide a coordinated approach to these issues,” says Roxy Denniston-Stewart, BISC Student and Enrolment Services Manager, who chairs this committee. “So far, the reception has been positive and the results encouraging.”

One of the committee’s first tasks was to issue a campus-wide survey to help form localized recommendations that could help make the BISC campus more inclusive.

The survey identified that the majority of respondents felt that they were treated equally, and that the BISC offered an inclusive environment. The issues and barriers that were identified were similar to those identified in the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion (PICRDI) report, with two challenges in particular that posed more of a problem for the BISC - infrastructure, and ensuring the language of Queen's values were transparent to British faculty and staff. 

"Being based in a historic building can make accessibility at times an intractable problem, and when we first attempted to get the view of staff and faculty on the many issues we were debating we had to ensure we kept true to the meaning of the Queen's values while translating these values into British English,"  says Ben Martin, a Philosophy Professor who is a member of the Advisory Committee. "For example, instead of using the word 'equity' in the UK, we tend to use the terms 'equality of opportunity'. The important point, however, is that all members of the community recognize what these values represent: the commitment to ensure that all academically able students have an equal opportunity to attend the BISC, regardless of their background."

In response to the survey, the BISC is ensuring equity, diversity, and inclusivity issues are taken into consideration and reflected in campus policies; providing cross-cultural training and sexual violence awareness training to all staff, and similar training to BISC first-years; and increasing collaboration with the Queen’s Equity and Human Rights Office.

As some next steps, the BISC will aim to establish a dedicated multi-faith prayer and reflection space; introduce more staff and management training; and work to ensure there is an Equity and Human Rights Office representative for the BISC as well as student government representatives focused on equity, diversity, and inclusivity.

“The committee made great strides in identifying areas that would improve the inclusivity, equity, and diversity at the BISC,” says Chloe Smith (Artsci’21), one of the student members of the committee. “I found all the committee members to be open to suggestions and it was evident by their hard work that this topic was important to everyone.”

“My experience really showed me that it only takes a few committed individuals to be able to make a difference,” adds Sara-Maya Kaba (Con.Ed’22), another student member on the committee. “I want the BISC to feel like home to anyone who walks through its doors, and I believe equity, diversity, and inclusivity plays a big part in being able to make that happen.”