How can a university become a more equitable place to learn, study, and work?
This question has been the driving force behind many new initiatives at Ontario universities in recent years, from curriculum changes to new names. The current landscape of equity work on campuses is dynamic in scope, with more voices at the table calling for big changes to campuses as we know them. And as many Indigenous scholars argue, Indigenization and decolonization are distinct from equity, and must be pursued as such.
This issue features the expertise and experiences of faculty and academic administrators who have been working in these spaces since before equity priorities and initiatives were written into University Strategic Plans. In each article, the authors ask vital questions of themselves, their colleagues, and those who run their institutions. They challenge all of us to think deeper about the ways in which we can all contribute to a more equitable future. They also offer personal reflections on their experiences as researchers, teachers, administrators, and university employees.
Through her teaching, research, and administrative work, Lynn Lavallee has dedicated her career to advancing Indigenous peoples and Indigenous knowledge in the academy. In an interview about her work in Indigenous resurgence, she asks: Are universities supporting Indigenous students and faculty beyond token gestures?
Reflecting on the experience of convening the 2023 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences with a pointed focus on equity, Andrea A. Davis asks: How far will such interventions go in changing the way things have always been done?
Historian Sara Z. MacDonald looks back at the tumultuous turn of the twentieth century when women were first admitted as students into English-Canadian universities, and asks: What lessons can we learn from that history that could help us make institutions more inclusive now?
After three years of service as an Affirmative Action, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at her institution, Tania Das Gupta evaluates her experience facilitating unconscious bias training for faculty. She asks: What do we talk about and learn about in equity training, and what goes unsaid?
In a piece on universal design, Erika Katzman analyzes the current landscape of accommodations and engagement for disabled faculty, students, and staff on our campuses, and asks: how can universities become truly accessible?
Finally, the first article by the 2021-2022 recipient of the OCUFA Henry Mandelbaum Graduate Fellowship for Excellence in Social Sciences, Humanities, or Arts appears in these pages. The recipient of the Doctoral Fellowship is now required to contribute a piece to Academic Matters on their research. The doctoral research of Jade Crimson Rose Da Costa also begins with a probing research question: What is your first memory of HIV/AIDS?
These are just some of the many evocative queries that will inform the next iteration of equity on university campuses. It’s up to all of us working in these spaces to engage meaningfully and seriously with these issues, and to listen to the experts whose work will guide us there.
I am grateful to all the authors for contributing their words and time to Academic Matters, and for their reflections and recommendations on the next iteration of this important, often undervalued, work.
All articles in this issue are available on our website: www.academicmatters.ca.