I write to voice my support for the Oct. 3 editorial, “Curriculums and Classes: Where Diversity Falls Short at Concordia.” I think it is crucial that students forthrightly address the insufficient diversity of faculty and curricula, challenging faculty and administration to address this problem as directly as possible.
In the Department of English, where I teach, there are presently 28 tenured or tenure-track faculty. Only two of these are people of colour—a figure wildly disproportionate to the diversity of Concordia students. Last year our department hired an Indigenous scholar in the field of Indigenous literature, and this is an important step forward. Yet in the department’s two previous job searches, none of the finalists were people of colour. Since one of those searches was in the field of Global Anglophone Literature (i.e. postcolonial literature), this is particularly troubling.
Unfortunately, efforts to advocate for diversification of faculty and curricula are too often met with anxiety and defensiveness. Last year an English department graduate student proposal for a research assistant position to help diversify syllabi was rejected by faculty. When a hiring committee made diversification of the department a key consideration in a search last year, they were rebuked by a higher committee for prioritizing diversity too much—hardly plausible given the composition of our faculty mentioned above. The English department’s proposal for a cluster hire in Black Studies to support the development of an interdisciplinary minor in that field was not selected among cluster hiring initiatives. It is always possible to gesture toward one recent hire or another in order to indicate progress on these issues, but it is also necessary to point out instances in which such progress has been impeded—especially given the structural reality of neglect on this front over recent decades. Sometimes the same diversity initiatives that are met with initial suspicion and resistance, then blocked at the level of implementation, are lauded as signs of progress because they have been proposed. That isn’t good enough.
The Collective Agreement of the Concordia University Faculty Association states that “The Parties agree that Concordia University would better advance the essential functions of the University, namely the pursuit, creation and dissemination of knowledge through teaching and research, if the diverse composition of Canadian society were better reflected in the bargaining unit. Therefore the Parties agree to encourage an increase in the proportion of members of under-represented designated groups as defined in the relevant legislation.” My view is that faculty and administration at Concordia need to do a better job of prioritizing this stipulation. It is heartening to see students insist on this point.
Associate Professor of English
Canada Research Chair in Poetics