Western University has named its first-ever equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) advisory council.
The creation of the advisory council is part of the university’s commitment in response to the final report of the Anti-Racism Working Group (ARWG) struck in 2019 that made a series of recommendations accepted by Western in 2020.
Members of the council are:
- Bipasha Baruah, Canada Research Chair in Global Women’s Issues and professor, women’s studies and feminist research
- Candace Brunette-Debassige, special advisor to the provost, (Indigenous initiatives)
- Susan Knabe, associate professor, department of gender, sexuality, and women’s studies and the Faculty of Information & Media Studies (FIMS); associate Dean, undergraduate, FIMS
- Erica S. Lawson, associate professor, gender, sexuality, and women’s studies
- Donna Fagon-Pascal, BA’92, vice-president, human resources, communications and public relations, Dynacare
- David B. Simmonds, BA’07, senior advisor, Canadian Centre for the Purpose of the Corporation; member, Western’s Board of Governors
- Sean Waite, BA’11, assistant professor, sociology
- Laura Williams, BA’91, founder and principal, Williams HR Law Professional Corp., and Williams HR Consulting Inc.
The council will provide guidance on anti-racism and EDI work, including the collection and publication of relevant data, and metrics to measure progress, and will advise and support Western’s future associate vice-president of EDI. The university is actively recruiting for this new position, which is expected to be filled this summer. The selection committee, composed of students, faculty and staff, is working with Jason Murray of BIPOC Executive Search.
“I want to thank Drs. Bertha Garcia and Nicole Kaniki, Western’s special advisors on anti-racism, for laying the foundation for this council,” said President Alan Shepard. “We know there is much work ahead of us. Together with the associate vice-president, EDI, this group will provide important insight and guidance as we move forward.”
Shepard also acknowledged the impact the special advisors have made in their efforts across campus. “Nicole’s and Bertha’s work in developing best practices, delivering training programs and creating new opportunities for dialogue is bringing the campus community together as we chart a better path forward. They are doing critical work for all of us, and I’m grateful for their leadership.”
Under the guidance of Garcia and Kaniki, Western has also established an EDI action network composed of more than 50 representatives from departments, faculties and units across campus. The group is meeting monthly to share their experiences and support various EDI initiatives.
“The individuals in the EDI network are truly our change agents,” said Kaniki. “In all corners of campus, they are developing and implementing important EDI work and they will be our on-the-ground influencers as we continue the work to shift the culture on campus.”
Since the start of the 2020-21 academic year, Garcia and Kaniki have provided 15 anti-racism and EDI education and training sessions and 14 consultations for students, faculty and staff. They, and members of the EDI action network, have also helped coordinate a number of EDI-focused educational webinars, collectively drawing hundreds of participants, including:
- Why It’s Hard To Talk About The N-Word with Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor
- Objectivity and the Corporate Media in Canada with Desmond Cole
- An Afternoon with Eternity Martis: What it means to be a student (and woman) of colour on a Canadian university campus today
- Black Canadian Leadership, featuring Carl James, Amoaba Gooden, and Annette Henry
- Racial Violence and Settler Colonialism with Sherene Razack
- Indigenizing the Academy with Marie Battiste
- Embedding Anti-Racism and Decolonization in University Approaches to EDI with Malinda S. Smith and Sheila Cote-Meek
In response to the ARWG report, Western also committed to reviewing the mechanisms for reporting racist incidents. Equity & Human Rights Services recently launched a simpler and more straightforward online reporting tool for concerns that fall under the University’s non-discrimination and harassment policy, with the option to report anonymously.
In the fall of 2021, a new, EDI demographical survey will be launched Western-wide for all members of the community including students, faculty and staff.
Progress on Western’s Indigenous Strategic Plan
Earlier this year, Western released the 2020 Indigenous Strategic Plan annual progress report, highlighting initiatives advancing Indigenous priorities across campus, as well as future challenges. Launched in 2016, the Indigenous Strategic Plan aims to elevate Indigenous voices and agency to engage all faculty, staff, students and communities in advancing excellence in Indigenous research, education, and campus life.
Western joins BlackNorth Initiative
Led by the Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism, the BlackNorth Initiative (BNI) is on a mission to end anti-Black systemic racism by utilizing a business-first mindset. Western has joined the BNI, with President Shepard representing the university on the education committee.
Strategic planning: Join the conversation
Early in the new year, Western’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee divided into seven theme groups. One of these groups is dedicated to ‘Embedding equity, diversity and inclusion into Western’s culture’. This five-member group has taken a unique approach by exploring EDI through the lens of the other six theme groups.