Continuing its commitment in response to the final report of the Anti-Racism Working Group, Western is investing a total of $6 million to support new equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives.
“This funding signifies Western’s deep commitment to pursuing meaningful, systemic change as we work together to embed EDI principles into the institutional structure of the university,” said Sarah Prichard, acting provost and vice-president (academic).
Initial funding of $4 million has been earmarked from the Provost’s Academic Renewal Fund to support the recruitment of Black and Indigenous faculty members starting this fall.
A one-time allocation of $1 million will support EDI curriculum development across the university. Spearheaded by the Centre for Teaching and Learning, the EDI Pathways program aims to enhance instructors’ skills across three domains of inclusive education: foundational, pedagogical and curricular.
Indigenizing university curriculum will be supported with $1 million in funding. The Office of Indigenous Initiatives will create a library of resources accessible to all faculty and programs and a new Indigenous curriculum developer role will be created to facilitate the respectful integration of these resources into courses. An Indigenous curriculum grant to support change at the program level is expected to launch this fall.
These investments are the latest in a series of initiatives 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 June 2020. The report led to the appointment of special advisors to the president on anti-racism and the creation of Western’s first-ever EDI advisory council.
“Significant foundational work has been completed over the past year on our campus, work that focused on education and training on the principles of EDI and the development of frameworks for response and support for members of our community,” said Lisa Highgate, special advisor along with Bertha Garcia.
“We’re going to see the enactment of a sustained strategy in a really coordinated way. We’re going to see systems of accountability being created and established.”
“We are trying to change our culture. To put an EDI lens on everything we do, it requires everyone’s involvement, not just the leaders, not just the allies,” said Garcia. “Whether administratively or academically, we need to look at what we do with an EDI lens. The job is immense, but these first steps are wonderful.”
“We’re going to see the enactment of a sustained strategy in a really coordinated way.” – Lisa Highgate, special advisor to the president on anti-racism
Unveiled earlier this week, Western’s new strategic plan outlines specific commitments to EDI including the creation of new bursaries for students from equity-deserving groups and strengthening the diversity of the university’s Canada Research Chairs.
Recruitment is actively underway for an associate vice-president of EDI, a role expected to be filled later this summer.
A Black at Western Alumni chapter is currently in development and plans are in motion to establish an Indigenous Alumni chapter.
Expected to be introduced this fall, a campus-wide demographic survey will establish baseline data for benchmarking strategies and measuring progress on EDI initiatives.
The new role of manager of EDI and decolonization in research will soon be filled in Western Research and the team is actively supporting researchers to develop EDI and decolonization plans for proposals and activities. The office of human research ethics and research ethics boards have engaged in EDI training and are working to enhance identification of and response to EDI issues in research ethics.
Initiatives at the faculty level include the formation of an EDI advisory council for the Ivey Business School in September 2020, and the planned rollout of a new EDI office for the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.
First brought together in December 2020, an EDI action network comprised of more than 60 representatives from various departments, faculties and units aims to bring together all EDI-related programs and initiatives across campus under one coordinated umbrella.
“…we need to look at what we do with an EDI lens. The job is immense, but these first steps are wonderful.” – Bertha Garcia, special advisor to the president on anti-racism
Highgate said the work of the network is already starting to make an impact.
“There’s so much energy and thought already happening at the department and faculty levels and what we discovered with the network was that EDI work is taking place, but in silos. The network really helps support coordination and sharing of best practice.”
Collaboration on EDI is also happening outside of Western, particularly with other universities and alumni groups, Highgate said.
Garcia and Highgate recognize that to effect meaningful, systemic change, the road ahead will be challenging. But they agree the strong support of the campus community is cause for optimism.
“We have to remember that EDI work can be difficult and uncomfortable at times. That is part of the process for this kind of change we are seeking,” Garcia said. “This is the challenge, but what we have seen so far has been complete engagement.”
Garcia believes this moment in Western’s history will shape the future of the university.
“For decades, we’ve been where we are and now, in a very short time, we are reshaping ourselves. I think those participating in this massive change are going to be remembered because this is such a crucial moment. I firmly believe that.”
A campus-wide demographic survey will establish baseline data for benchmarking strategies and measuring progress on EDI initiatives.
Other recent EDI activities and initiatives at Western include:
Education, training, consultation
Since the start of the 2020-21 academic year, numerous anti-racism and EDI education and training sessions and multiple consultations have been offered to the campus community. The special advisors on anti-racism and members of the EDI action network, have also helped coordinate a number of EDI-focused educational webinars, collectively drawing hundreds of participants.
Enhanced reporting tool
In response to the ARWG report, Western committed to reviewing the mechanisms for reporting racist incidents. Equity & Human Rights Services has 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.
Indigenous Strategic Plan progress
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.
BlackNorth Initiative membership
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 Alan Shepard representing the university on the education committee.