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Concordia students seek a more diverse university

by Savanna Craig April 12, 2016
Concordia students seek a more diverse university

Students push for greater representation and diversity in the English department

Concordia held an event on how to better support diversity among staff and faculty Monday afternoon. The “Racialization, Indigeneity, Racism and the University” event took place in the LB building. The lecture was introduced by Graduate Program Director Danielle Bobker, who presented the speakers—Queen’s University professor Audrey Kobayashi and York University professor Enakshi Dua.

Graphic by Florence Yee.

Graphic by Florence Yee.

The event was sponsored by the Subcommittee on Representation and Visibility in the Academy, the English department, the Faculty of Arts and Science and the Simone de Beauvoir Institute. Organizer and English Literature MA student Mona’a Malik said she and Bobker knew there were concerns amongst English students concerning the lack of representation of people of colour and LGBTQ+ communities in faculty and curriculum, especially in terms of authors and theorists on syllabi, said Malik.

Creative Representative for the Student Association for Graduate Students in English and Creative Writing Graduate student Liam LaChance said it’s vital for the community to acknowledge the limitations inherent to an all-white faculty. “We should accept our limits in speaking on behalf of people whose experiences we will never fully share,” said LaChance. “Having more voices in a conversation seems like a higher quality of discussion and education.”

Kobayashi said one of the reasons everyday racism occurs is due to the persistent white culture. Kobayashi said, “overall, what we see in virtually every campus across Canada is … entrenchment of [white] culture.” She said many administrations ignore this white culture by implementing some programs with diversity, but which ultimately do not lead to enough change.

Graphic by Florence Yee.

Graphic by Florence Yee.

Presently, many students at Concordia are not only feeling the effect of racism from white culture, but are noticing the great lack of diversity within their education and at the university. “I’ve had my own issues with the art history department,” said Shaun Contant, an art history student. “Mostly the fact that it tends to be a very Euro-centric curriculum.” He said that being a person of colour in a Euro-centric classroom causes him to feel that “your art and your culture is not as important.”

He and his classmates from his elective African-American literature found the lack of diversity within the faculty has affected professors’ analysis of topics like racism.

“As the black students we had to point out things that she wasn’t bringing up in the class,” said Contant.
Melissa Murphy, an English Literature student and Contant’s classmate, said the teacher did not analyze the literature in the way she felt a black professor would.

“There wasn’t enough cultural context … [The professor] was kind of giving us a very formal understanding [of African-American literature].”

Murphy said it’s hard for teachers to relate to issues associated to racism when their perspective is outside the realm of those experiencing racism first-hand.

The students collectively said it’s not the professor’s fault that she didn’t bring a personal understanding to the analysis as a white female, however they feel this can be aided by a greater minority representation within the staff.

“I want to be able to see myself in the things I read, I want to be able to go and learn about my history,” said Shannon Gittens, an English literature student that participated in the African-American literature class. “The problem is when you only give one avenue of education, or education from one perspective all the time, then it kind of leaves a certain glare on the other side of the story.”

The Concordian sat down with the head of the English department, professor Andre Furlani. He said that during the hiring process the department aims to be blind in terms of race and sexual orientation.

“The department is currently in negotiations to secure a second full-time faculty member who belongs to a visible minority,” said Furlani. “In terms of larger issues of diversity, the department’s cadre of 27 full-time members includes 10 women and five gay/lesbian members.”

Furlani said the last seven hires were white males, however he said there was no bias within these hires. “One of the hires was Alan Shepard,” said Furlani, adding that Shepard will begin teaching in the Fall 2016 term. Furlani said that while this does not fill their racial minority category, he is proud the English department has LGBTQ+ representation.

In terms of greater diversity within the classes offered by the English department, Furlani said you’re not going to see the diversity of a course in the title or the description online, however students should look at the details of each syllabus to recognize the different ethnic authors and literary works studied.

“We’re black students, we’re advocating for our history, we want our stories told, we want our representation and that’s something that we should be able to demand freely without it feeling offensive or aggressive or out of place,” said Shannon.

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9 comments

bobjames April 15, 2016 - 23:24

There is no factual evidence or statistical data behind this social-media-opinion-post of an article. Moreover, define the ambiguous term “white culture”. I appreciate a University that hires strictly on qualifications, please provide evidence that Concordia is not doing such. Proposing that Concordia must hire people of visible minority could very well employ poorly qualified individuals over those who are much more apt. This would be detrimental to many students education and also would encourage actual discrimination. Education should be a matter of merit not skin tone or gender preference. If this faux-journalism is front page of a University paper I feel appalled attending this institution.

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Adebowale C. April 24, 2016 - 00:10

I hope you are joking? Yours is same argument as KKK. All racist movements say inclusion is discrimination against Euro diaspora. Hiring of leaders (new and experienced) at school is, private club of Euro diaspora (Irish, Quebecois, English, Italian, Russian, Polish and additional groups). This is appalling. We see private club of Euro diaspora leaders (euro men, women) and protégées (euro men, women) trained to carry torch and exclude clearly. We feel the school is backwards, old fashioned. It is shameless and systemic in racism.

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Teddy Edwards April 24, 2016 - 05:43

That you see people only by the color of their skin is deplorable. That’s BlackLivedMatter and, to a lesser extent, KKK stuff.

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Adebowale C. April 25, 2016 - 20:30

You win Internet Troll.

Reply
Teddy Edwards April 23, 2016 - 21:06

TRY THIS ON: DIVERSITY IS A SCAM.

Are colleges across America rife with racism, sexism and homophobia?

If you answer “No, that’s absurd!” you probably have a fair amount of common sense.

If you answer, “Yes!” you’re probably a college administrator.

“Wait”, you might ask, “College administrators accuse their own schools of being racist, sexist and homophobic? How does that make any sense?”

To understand how a college administrator thinks, you must first — as the popular saying goes — follow the money.

If you do, you will not only discover why college administrators declare their own colleges racist, sexist and homophobic, but also why — if you’re a student — your tuition keeps going up and why — if you’re a parent — your bank balance keeps going down.

Here’s how it works:

If colleges are racist, sexist and homophobic, the only way to change that — if you’re a college administrator — is to create a massive diversity bureaucracy. And that, of course, is massively expensive. No institution provides a more vivid example than the University of California, a once great university system which is self-destructing in the name of diversity.

The diversity ideology has encroached upon every aspect of the University of California’s collective psyche and mission. It is the one constant in every university endeavor. It impinges on hiring. It distorts the curriculum. It sucks up vast amounts of faculty time and taxpayer money.

Even the university’s ongoing budget problems have not touched it!

Since 2010, UC San Francisco, UC San Diego and UCLA have all created new vice chancellorships in diversity, equity and inclusion with salaries starting at $250,000 a year or higher. Each of these new posts is wildly redundant. Yet each new diversity position inevitably generates an even greater surge of junior bureaucrats, all sucking in tuition dollars.

In 2011, UC Berkeley’s Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion presided over a staff of 17. Yet one year later his staff had ballooned to 24. No wonder the number of administrators at the University of California almost equals that of the faculty.

Here’s only a partial list of the diversity bureaucracy at the UC San Diego:

The Associate Vice-Chancellor for Faculty Equity

The Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Diversity

The Staff Diversity Liaison

The Undergraduate Student Diversity Liaison

The Graduate Student Diversity Liaison

The Chief Diversity Officer

The Director of Development for Diversity Initiatives

The Director of the Cross-Cultural Center

The Director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center

The Director of the Women’s Center

These diversity bureaucrats place non-stop pressure on departments to hire on the basis of race, gender, and sexual preference. Their trick is to set the hiring bar low enough to scoop in more female and minority candidates and then to declare that anyone above that bar is qualified enough to trump the most qualified when that candidate is a white or Asian male. But sometimes even that evisceration of standards isn’t enough. In that case, the administration simply creates a new hiring category. In September 2012, after UC SD’s electrical and computer engineering faculty refused to hire a mediocre female professor whom the administrator has tried to force on them, the engineering school announced that it would be creating an “excellence” position, the school’s Orwellian phrase for women and minorities who cannot get hired even after hiring standards have been lowered.

Remember, these machinations are all in service of a problem that doesn’t exist. It’s entirely fabricated. UC campuses, like colleges throughout America, are easily the most welcoming and inclusive social environments in human history, at least if you are not conservative. Female and minority students are surrounded by caring adults who are dedicated to their academic success. They enjoy opportunities for learning and self-development that are the envy of the world. As for the faculty, the idea that any academic department would reject the most qualified candidate simply because that candidate was black, Hispanic, a woman or gay is absurd. Not to mention an entirely gratuitous insult to every faculty member on the hiring committees.

Universities should be the institution in society that is the most dedicated to reason and evidence-based decisions. But with their crusade against their own make-believe racism and sexism, UC and almost every other American university betray that ideal every day.

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Adebowale C. April 24, 2016 - 01:02

Teddy Edwards: Racism doesn’t exist. Diversity spoils universities. Diversity is a scam.
White nationalist organizations: Racism doesn’t exist. Diversity spoils universities. Diversity is a scam.

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Teddy Edwards April 24, 2016 - 05:24

Are you a member of a white nationalist organization? If so, have you noticed similarities to #BlackLivesMatter with the emphasis of both on the supremacy of their respective races and both wanting “separate but equal” facilities to keep the races separate? The only discernible difference, of course, being that #BlackLiveatter is more open to violence, rioting and the destruction of black neighborhoods and burning down of black businesses..

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Adebowale C. April 25, 2016 - 20:44

Hope you find peace. Good night internet troll.

Reply
PatrioticUSGlory April 25, 2016 - 21:04

I have peace, dear. Name-calling. Are you ten yet?

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