Removing barriers to higher education

Removing barriers to higher education

Queen’s unveils new strategies to champion greater equity and diversity in recruitment and admissions of undergraduate students.

By Dave Rideout

November 4, 2020


Queen's students socializing
The new equity, diversity, inclusivity, and Indigenization strategies are set to be implemented for the current admission cycle. (File Photo, University Communications)

In August 2020, Principal Patrick Deane set forth the university’s commitment to address systemic racism as it exists within the institution. Co-signed by more than 20 of Queen’s senior leaders, the Declaration of Commitment to Address Systemic Racism acknowledged the need for the campus community to understand and confront structural prejudices, pledging to undertake a range of actions beginning immediately.

“Persistent racism, systemic as well as individual, has brought our society to a crisis point,” states Principal Deane in the declaration. “Queen’s University is not immune to this pervasive and destructive force that silently influences the shape and functioning of our culture and institutions, entrenching longstanding abuses of power that have diminished the humanity of Black, Indigenous and racialized people. Each of us has a role to play in addressing racism.”

As part of this commitment, the university pledged to identify and eliminate barriers within university policies, procedures, and practices related to the recruitment and admission of racialized students, and enhance efforts and initiatives to diversify the student population.

This week, Queen’s marks a milestone in this ongoing effort with the announcement of new strategies designed to advance equity, diversity, inclusivity, and Indigenization (EDII) in undergraduate recruitment and admissions.

“These actions demonstrate an immediate and meaningful commitment to enhance access to Queen’s for BIPOC and other underserved and underrepresented student populations,” says Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs. “We will gather more information about the diversity of our applicant pool which will inform our admissions processes, we are introducing a major new financial aid program that recognizes leadership in racial and social justice, and we will be establishing more peer-to-peer support during the recruitment process.”

The strategies were developed by a multi-disciplinary group of staff, faculty, and students, and were approved by the Strategic Management Group and endorsed by the senior leadership team.

“These initiatives will change how we recruit and admit underrepresented and underserved students,” says Chris Coupland, Chair of the Undergraduate Recruitment and Admission EDII Task Force, formed this past summer to identify and address issues affecting diversity in the student population. “We are excited to move forward in partnership with faculties and schools, and with students who will be connecting directly with applicants and their families and supporters.”

The strategies are set to be implemented for the current admission cycle, and include:

New applicant information options

During the admissions processes, prospective students will have the option to complete a new Equity Admission Self-Identification form designed to support the university in gathering and understanding new data about campus diversity. The form, which was developed in consultation with Queen’s Human Rights and Equity Office, allows students to submit self-identifying information for use by admissions staff as additional consideration when assessing applicants who meet minimum academic requirements and have completed all program prerequisites. The data collected will also be used to inform outreach and recruitment initiatives.

In addition, applications to Commerce, Health Sciences, and Nursing will include revised supplementary essay questions that allow applicants to write about life experiences while demonstrating support of the university’s values of equity, diversity, inclusivity and Indigenization.

New merit- and needs-based financial awards and aid

Additional merit- and needs-based academic awards are being developed to provide financial aid to applicants who identify as underrepresented.

The first of these will be a new multi-year scholarship and bursary program. The Commitment Scholars Award will be granted based on demonstrated leadership in, and commitment to, racial, social justice, or diversity initiatives in high school or the local community, and will include wraparound financial, academic, and career support supports. This major award builds on the success and impact of the Promise Scholars program. The Commitment Bursary will be awarded on the basis of demonstrated financial need. In addition to new awards, promotion of existing awards for underrepresented applicants will be increased.

New Equity Ambassador Program for applicant support

An Equity Ambassador Program will be established to offer peer support to prospective students. Applicants will have the option to connect with current students in paid positions who can share insights into navigating the admissions and financial aid processes, as well as studies at Queen’s.

These strategies are the first major changes to roll out following the declaration. They will be followed by additional changes and additions over the coming months as Queen’s leaders move to advance all of the initiatives it outlined.

Read the Declaration of Commitment to Address Systemic Racism on the Queen's Gazette.