Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
In his statement on Diversity and Inclusion, the President of the University of Toronto observes, “Diversity, inclusion, respect, and civility are among the University of Toronto’s fundamental values. Outstanding scholarship, teaching, and learning can thrive only in an environment that embraces the broadest range of people and encourages the free expression of their diverse perspectives. Indeed, these values speak to the very mission of the University. They spark education, discovery, and understanding and so take their place among humanity’s greatest forces for good.” The Faculty of Arts & Science is committed to this emphasis on diversity and inclusion: our academic and research missions are enriched when we treat all people fairly, while recognizing and respecting their differences; when we hear all voices at the table; and when we recognize and celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of everyone in the Faculty.
Commitment to Mental Health and Well-being
An increasing number of our students are registered with Accessibility Services and require a range of accommodations to ensure that they can effectively pursue their studies. Ongoing efforts to remove barriers arising from mental or physical health issues have had encouraging results. Nevertheless, we can do more to explore options for enhancing accessibility for incoming students, and to support the efforts of instructors who are delivering course content, ensuring that appropriate provisions are in place to create an inclusive experience from first year through to graduation. Many of our locations still pose challenges due to historical designs that do not include ramps or other basic accessibility features; full access to our classrooms, administrative offices, and services is essential if we are to promote the well-being of our students. We will continue to work with the office of the Vice-President, Operations and Real Estate Partnerships, to improve the accessibility of our buildings.
As of July 1, 2019, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) is included within the portfolio of the Vice-Dean, Faculty, Academic Life & Equity (formerly the Vice-Dean, Faculty & Academic Life), who will Chair a new A&S EDI Committee. EDI will also be enhanced by ensuring that A&S leaders are responsive to policies and procedures aimed at promoting diversity and inclusivity. Chairs and Directors already take part in training that promotes awareness of unconscious bias, primarily focused on the hiring process. In 2019, the Faculty partnered with TIDE (the Toronto Initiative for Diversity & Excellence) to offer customized programming for A&S academic administrators, and we are members of the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity.
In recent years, the faculty complement in A&S has become increasingly diverse. Women now make up over 40 per cent of professors at the Assistant level. Nevertheless, Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) faculty are underrepresented across the Faculty, and women continue to be underrepresented in science and quantitative fields, and at the rank of Full Professor. A&S is committed to upholding principles of diversity and promoting equity in recruitment, hiring, retention, and promotion of faculty. The Dean has commissioned a new A&S EDI Committee with a mandate to facilitate modifications to the Faculty’s policies and procedures, and develop recommendations for best practices, to enhance EDI. The Committee will be tasked with identifying barriers faced by members of disadvantaged and marginalized groups (while recognizing that many individuals will belong to several intersecting groups), and proposing initiatives aimed at promoting diversity and fostering a truly inclusive environment.
The Faculty is committed to diversity in our faculty complement, which we will achieve through focused initiatives on hiring and retention, including: being proactive in our use of Provostial funding programs targeted to increase diversity by coordinating and communicating to our units these programs’ timelines and processes; developing improved EDI guidelines for academic units to use in their requests for academic appointments; enhancing training programs for Dean’s representatives on search committees to provide optimal consistency in meeting the Faculty’s goals in relation to searches; and increasing retention of diverse candidates by working closely with academic administrators to build heathy workplace environments that proactively promote retention.
We will facilitate career progression through the ranks for underrepresented faculty by reviewing and revising processes that may unintentionally limit progress. We will also re-establish the Women in Arts & Science network, and we will seek guidance from the institutional Black Faculty Working Group in the development of similar A&S networks for Black faculty, as well as faculty from other underrepresented groups. We will ensure all academic administrators understand the importance of being attentive to the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion in their actions and decision-making, and we will continue to work toward increased representation of women and BIPOC faculty as leaders throughout A&S. For example, the A&S EDI Committee will recommend how principles of EDI should be meaningfully incorporated into unit-level appointments of leadership roles (e.g., Associate Chairs).
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for staff at the University of Toronto fall within the portfolio of the Vice-President, Human Resources and Equity (VPHRE). We will continue to work in collaboration with the VPHRE to promote a diverse and inclusive environment in which our staff can thrive.
While our student body is diverse, some groups are underrepresented. High school students from various backgrounds may not “see themselves” in the Faculty, and consequently may not view A&S as a desirable postsecondary destination. Moreover, some students who do enroll may experience barriers to academic opportunities. It is important not only that we have a diverse student body, but also that those students can participate fully in all that the Faculty offers.
Undergraduate Students. Our urban location provides an abundance of opportunities to engage in community-based outreach programs. We want to ensure that students across our city see themselves as potential members of A&S. A variety of highly successful outreach programs are already in place, largely led by units and student organizations. We will support, expand, and coordinate with these existing efforts so we can be more effective in reaching members of diverse groups, with a particular focus on those from socioeconomic or racialized groups currently underrepresented at U of T. We will also reduce any barriers to participation in the Faculty so that our diverse student body has access to a truly inclusive student experience. For example, we will explore the possibility of broad-based admissions as a means of increasing diversity within the student population. We will continue to partner with the Colleges on promoting accessibility to the Faculty through programs such as Academic Bridging at Woodsworth College, which provides an avenue through which individuals who have been out of school for years can gain entry into A&S. We are also committed to accessibility and equity in our co-curricular opportunities, as well as our international and experiential learning opportunities.
Graduate Students. A&S will provide continued support for doctoral recruitment awards including diversity-focused awards such as the Recognition of Excellence award, which assists units in recruiting high-calibre doctoral students whose admission aligns with diversity objectives. A key goal of this initiative, beyond redressing existing imbalances, is to encourage units to think more holistically about graduate student recruitment, and to bring to the forefront strategies and methods for recruiting, enrolling, and retaining a diverse graduate student body for the benefit of the University as a whole. We will explore mechanisms to facilitate the engagement of undergraduate students from underrepresented groups, from U of T and elsewhere, in thinking about graduate school as an option. In addition, the Faculty will work with SGS and individual units to develop in-program initiatives so that students from diverse groups feel welcome and have access to academic support.
A&S is committed to a community in which we recognize and celebrate the multiplicity of voices in the Faculty. By promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion, we can provide an enriched environment for our faculty, staff, and students. We support the development of a more diverse faculty complement, and will work to reduce any barriers to leadership roles. It is important to ensure that students from diverse groups can find role models among our faculty and academic leadership. At the same time, we recognize that recruitment of a diverse student body is essential if we are to train individuals who will themselves become leaders in our own ranks, as well as in our community more broadly.