Queen’s University continues its effort to make advancements in its pursuit of a more equitable campus community. The release of both the 2021-22 Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Indigenization and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force Implementation reports show advancements made in equity and Indigenization at Queen’s.
The past academic year has witnessed the implementation of several initiatives created to help foster a more diverse and inclusive environment at Queen’s. Advancements, beneficial to students, faculty, and staff, have been achieved and serve as foundational pieces to a promising future.
In 2021-22, women, Indigenous, and racialized faculty members were hired at rates that exceeded their workforce availability.
Just over a year ago, Queen’s joined more than 40 universities and colleges across Canada as a signatory of the Scarborough Charter – a sector-wide agreement designed to move post-secondary institutions beyond rhetoric to more concrete actions to address anti-Black racism and to promote Black inclusion.
The charter, which was signed by Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane, is based on four essential principles: Black flourishing, inclusive excellence, mutuality, and accountability. These core principles are underpinned by detailed target areas and actions that seek wide-ranging changes and improvements to post-secondary governance, approaches to research, teaching and learning, and community engagement.
“As Queen’s begins to realize its ambitious strategy for the future, it must always be mindful of the impact on the people it supports,” says Principal Deane. “The university’s vision is predicated upon a commitment to our values: truth, responsibility, respect, freedom and wellbeing. Our university will not be able to achieve its goals without adhering to these values.”
Queen’s continues to expand initiatives to recruit, retain, and support students from equity-deserving groups through expanded outreach by Access and Inclusion admission staff and peer equity ambassadors, additional financial aid, and tailored support services.
The first cohort of Commitment Scholars was welcomed to Queen’s in Fall 2021. This renewable award – $12,000 per year for four years – recognizes 10 incoming students each year who have demonstrated leadership in racial justice, social justice, and leading EDII initiatives in their school or community.
Queen’s also granted Commitment Bursaries to more than 300 incoming students in 2021-22. These students will receive a total of $935,000 in their first year of study. This new bursary was created for eligible first-year students who self-identify as a member of an underserved or underrepresented group based on demonstrated financial need.
The Yellow House, a unit in Student Affairs that opened in 2020 as a dedicated space for racialized, queer, and other marginalized students, created additional staff positions in response to the growth in demand for programs and services for equity-deserving student communities. Programming this year has continued to increase and grow, and engagement has been very high.
The Human Rights and Equity Office and Student Affairs launched a student campus climate and culture survey in 2021 to help the university understand systemic racism, exclusionary and discriminatory behaviours, and sexual violence on campus.
Since the release of the survey report, From Input to Action, the work of shifting Queen’s culture and climate has been embraced by student groups and by units, departments and faculties. This work has inspired the Queen’s Shift Project, a collection of events and initiatives – open to all students – aimed at centering equity-deserving student experiences, providing opportunities for dialogue , and acting on next steps towards improving campus culture. The next campus climate survey will take place in January 2023.
These initiatives, among others highlighted in the report, are helping to remove barriers some have experienced either in entering or prospering while at Queen’s University, and make the campus environment more inclusive.
Year Five: TRC Implementation Report
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force Implementation Report – Year Five, released by the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, details many of the actions Queen’s has taken to help the university fulfill the 25 recommendations for sustained institutional change detailed within the Extending the Rafters report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force (TRCTF).
One of those accomplishments is the launch of the BA Honours Major and Medial in Indigenous Studies in 2021. The programs serve as interdisciplinary Honours degrees that draw on a range of course offerings from 14 departments within the Faculty of Arts and Science. Those courses focus on Indigenous history, culture, experience, language, and ways of knowing.
Additionally, the Queen’s undergraduate and graduate Degree Level Expectations were updated to include language explicitly focused on equity, diversity, inclusion, Indigenization, and accessibility (EDIIA). Of those changes, one of the points highlighted is the need for students to: “ethically engage diverse communities and participants to advance research and scholarship and to benefit communities.”
“The university’s efforts to strengthen relationships with Indigenous communities as well as developing Indigenous gathering spaces on campus have both been an incredible example of reconciliation and Indigenization that I hope will continue many years into the future,” says Kanonhsyonne Janice Hill, Associate Vice-Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation). “It is instrumental to include Indigenous community in the work that we are doing at the university and that work begins with building honest and accountable relationships so that we begin from a place of trust.”
The Faculty of Education is leading an Indigenous Youth Initiative, in partnership with the regional school boards, to create pathways to education for Indigenous students and support them in completing a Bachelor of Education degree.
The Faculty of Arts and Science worked closely with Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre in Student Affairs to hire an Academic Advisor to work with Indigenous students and provide leadership on decolonizing academic advising more generally. An Indigenous Advising space in the Faculty, designed in partnership with Four Directions, opened for in-person advising in Summer 2022.
“Real and substantive change requires all of us to work together and to recognize that those commitments we have made must permeate all the work we do,” says Principal Deane.
For more information and resources on EDII efforts at Queen’s, please visit the Inclusive Queen’s site.
Originally published in the Queen's Gazette.