All Posts Tagged With: "equity"
Socially conscious artists, Obama have helped the cause
Music preference on Canadian university campuses is traditionally as diverse as students themselves, but in the past year we all seemed to agree on one thing: Macklemore. The 29-year-old rapper, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, found international fame in late 2012 with his catchy-with-a-conscience song Thrift Shop, which asks why we don’t take the more environmentally friendly route to clothing. The song sparked theme parties at campus bars all across Canada and likely some thrift shopping.
Since then listeners have discovered Macklemore’s entire album of socially conscious songs. One that has particularly resonated with our generation is Same Love, a catchy and eloquent song about same-sex marriage equality.
Macklemore is based in Seattle, Washington, a state that legalized same-sex marriage in December 2012. Although this seems redundant to Canadians whose ‘gay marriage rights’ have simply been ‘marriage rights’ for nearly ten years now, the issue is ongoing for our southern neighbours. For those fighting for their rights in the U.S., Macklemore is a welcome voice, especially from the hip-hop industry which has been notoriously homophobic.
Same Love is about discrimination. The song condemns inappropriate use of the word gay and the perpetuation of stereotypes by “right-wing conservatives” who think a “predisposition is a choice.” Above all, it questions why people don’t stand up to fight for “humans that have had their rights stolen.”
Ryerson Students’ Union rejects “concept of misandry”
An effort to guard the empowerment of women’s voices on campus took form Monday when the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) swiftly adopted a bold new policy rejecting the concept of misandry – the hatred or fear of men.
Neda Hamzavi, a faculty of community services representative on the RSU Board of Directors (BOD), watched her amendment to the RSU’s policy on women’s issues pass without any debate, discussion or dispute. This could cause conflict at a time when controversial men’s issues movements are on the rise at university campuses.
“There’s been a lot of work across campuses not only in Ontario but also across the country that have been working sort of [as] anti-women’s rights groups,” Hamzavi said in her pitch to the BOD.
“We want to acknowledge that the additions that we added here are regarding the ideas of misandry and reverse-sexism, both of which are oppressive concepts that aim to delegitimize the equity work that women’s movements work to do.” Marwa Hamad, vice-president equity at the RSU, said the policy will preserve space for discussing misogyny and institutionalized gender imbalances.
What students are talking about today (February 28th)
1. Students at McMaster University got creative crossing their slushy Hamilton, Ont. campus after a major winter storm hit Ontario on Tuesday. They paddled across it in a canoe. Someone made a video and posted it to YouTube where it already has 55,000 views and was shown on air by CBC News Network. Meanwhile in Ottawa….
2. Ryerson University student Sarah Santhosh wants to start a men’s issues group on campus called the Ryerson Association for Equality that would discuss mental health, male youth violence, misogyny, as well as gender disadvantages in education, the workplace and custody battles. “Universities are supposed to be places where any and all ideas are accepted and discussed. Nothing should be too taboo for discussion,” she told The Eyeopener. It’s unclear whether the Ryerson Students’ Union will prevent the group from gaining status considering vice president equity, Marwa Hamad, previously said that, “marginalized or underprivileged student members should be the focus of equity service groups on campus.”
June Larkin earns 3M National Teaching Fellowship
June Larkin, a lecturer in Women and Gender Studies and Equity Studies and vice-principal of New College at the University of Toronto, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10.
Before June Larkin ever attended a university class, she was engrossed in the intricacies of social justice as a primary-school teacher.
As a “mature student” balancing her undergraduate studies in psychology, feminist studies and education with her teaching job, she saw firsthand the interplay between gender and social equality on the playground as the children fought, played and formed peer groups. When she went on to do her PhD, she used her background as a teacher to write her doctorate about sexual harassment in high schools. “Working as a teacher was one of the things that attracted me to equity studies,” she says, “Now, as a professor, I have always tried to bridge theoretical concepts with practical, community-based application.”
I did fine without teachers who ‘looked’ exactly like me
An internal memo circulated earlier this week within the Toronto District School Board explicitly states: “The first round of TDSB interviews will be granted to teachers candidates that meet one or more of the following criteria in addition to being an outstanding teacher: Male, racial minority, French, Music, Aboriginal.”
Although the school board is taking the stance that the hiring criteria outlined above is not meant to actively exclude other groups, I can’t help but think that if I sent in a resume after graduating from York University’s education program this spring, as a female, I’d be rejected.
I’ve been constantly reminded that, as an Asian female, there are special scholarships available to me—that I enjoy a special kind of privilege offered to women of colour. A representative at a job fair stand once told me that if I ever considered applying for a position with the Toronto Police Service, I’d be a shoo-in. The TPS was running low on Asian female police officers—their words, not mine. Some would call this affirmative action. Others would cry reverse racism.
I say: why should any of this matter? Shouldn’t merit, skill and experience be what really counts?
Prof. Pettigrew on the Ontario PC Party’s plan
The conservative Ontario PCs have released a new policy paper on higher education. Amid the usual boilerplate rhetoric that conservative politicians trot out on such occasions was this little gem regarding student loans:
Decisions about who should receive loans and how much money is to be awarded should involve assessments of future employability and reward good academic behaviour. Rewarding good behaviour means not only making the smart and efficient choice about where to go to school, but also keeping students accountable for how they choose to spend the money the government is lending them. To maintain aid, students must demonstrate a minimum level of academic success. Too often, our loans and grants programs reward mediocrity.
It takes a while for the magnitude of what is being proposed here to hit you. When it does, you realize that the PCs are proposing twisting the student loan system into a bureaucratic nightmare of nearly Orwellian proportions.
But gov’t won’t track race of teachers
In Toronto’s Peel Region, where 57 per cent of people are minorities, South Asians are demanding more non-white teachers. “We’re still seen as outsiders, we’re not part of the team because schools are kind of clique-ish to those who aren’t Caucasian,” teacher Krishna Nankissoor told the Toronto Star. He had complained to the Ontario Human Rights Commission after failing to be promoted, but since made a deal with the board. Tony Pontes, the director of education for Peel Region told The Star that it takes time to get more minority teachers. Dean Alice Pitt of York University similarly explained that although the supply of teachers in recent years is very diverse (33 per cent at York) boards aren’t hiring much, so the face of classrooms is changing slowly. The Ontario Ministry of Education told school boards earlier this year to make equity a focus in hiring, but the government will not force boards to track the races of teachers.
Lack of female leaders continues
Gender equality in Canadian varsity sports is improving, but there are still problems to tackle, shows new research from the University of Toronto’s Centre for Sport Policy Studies.
The good news, according to the report, is that there were almost as many varsity women’s teams (425) as there were varsity men’s teams (431) in 2010-11. The bad news is that there were only 7,815 team roster positions for female athletes—44 per cent of the total—despite the fact they make up 56 per cent of university students.
The truly “disturbing” news, according to the study’s authors, is that women make up less than one-fifth of the senior leadership. Women hold only 19 per cent of head coach jobs and only 17 per cent of athletic directorships.
New program shows less-wealthy kids a path to medicine
Ridge Cross-McComber is about as blasé as your average overachiever when it comes to his laundry list of goals for the next few years and beyond. He’ll finish his year at Montreal’s Dawson College, move to Vanier College for either nursing or pure and applied science, then go to medical school to become a surgeon. After that, he’ll practise medicine in Kahnawake, his hometown. “I want to be a role model for my community,” says the 17-year-old, sitting in a café in the native reserve near Montreal. “It’s something I want to do for my town and my people. I want to show that I can do this.”
As far as medical school goes, history and statistics are stacked against Cross-McComber. Wealthy students tend to be overrepresented in the field, for one. According to a study by the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada, nearly 45 per cent of medical students come from families making over $100,000 a year. (Only about 26 per cent of Canadian families are in this demographic, according to the AFMC study.) And while medical schools are decidedly less uniformly Caucasian than they used to be, the AFMC study indicates that many visible minorites continue to be under-represented.
Professor Pettigrew proposes a commonsense alternative
Having served on many university hiring committees, I have always been mildly troubled by the term “visible minorities,” a term often seen in job ads.
So I was not entirely outraged when I learned that folks down at the UN are upset with how Canadians throw that term around.
Admittedly, it’s frustrating to see an anti-racist policy critiqued for supposedly racist language. Indeed, so many terms are politically charged that it’s hard to know what constitutes appropriate care and what constitutes politically-correct nitpicking. Is “cotton-pickin’” a racist term? Is “pork barrell“? Is “boy“?
Frustrating as it is, we shouldn’t dismiss such concerns. After all, many terms that seemed unobjectionable or even progressive in the past now seem awkward if not offensive. I remember wincing when my grandmother said “coloured” and wondering why she couldn’t say “black” like civilized people. Except that, now, civilized people are increasingly uncomfortable with “black.” I wouldn’t be surprised if my grandchildren find it hard to believe that anyone could ever have used a term so insensitive as “African Canadian.”
The knock against “visible minority” is that it arguably identifies white as the standard, normal way to be, and places non-white people in some lesser, “other” category. But isn’t the whole point of equitable hiring practices to acknowledge that white men really have been seen as the standard and that women and minorities have, for this reason, been unfairly disadvantaged? You can’t make the problem go away by getting rid of terms that identify the problem.
Some prefer a term like “racialized communities” but I’m not convinced it’s any better than what we have now. To my ear, it seems to imply that certain groups have had their ethnic or racial origins imposed upon them and that their identities are merely a mark of their oppression — rather than a heritage of which they can be proud. You’d be fine, if you hadn’t been racialized. It sounds wrong.
Still, “visible minority” leaves a lot to be desired. For one thing, what about invisible minorities? Jewish people have suffered through long periods of oppression, and anti-Semitism is not a thing of the past — but while there may be cultural cues that might indicate that a candidate is Jewish, I doubt most Jewish candidates would self-identify as a visible minority. What about gay applicants? They are part of a disadvantaged minority, but, again, not a visible one.
Still further, exactly how visible does one’s minority status have to be to be a member of a visible minority? I have met many Canadians who identify as Aboriginals, but whose physical characteristics are not stereotypically “native.” Are they still members of visible minorities? Is a blond aboriginal person less entitled to affirmative action than a dark-haired aboriginal person?
Perhaps it’s time to simply invite candidates to indicate, if they choose, whether they believe that elements of their identity have disadvantaged them in some way. Then, hiring committees could take those disadvantages into account during the vetting process. It’s not a perfect solution, but at least we could stop trying to come up with a term that includes certain people but not others while implying only positive things.
After all, even if we came up with such a term, it’s going to sound wrong twenty years from now.
Equity policies may have little impact.
Two things have put affirmative action on my mind lately. One is the Tory musings that the government might abandon the federal affirmative action policy. The other is that I am on a hiring committee at work.
My august institution has an affirmative action policy that seems, at least, in theory, fairly reasonable to me. In a nutshell, the policy says that well qualified members of visible minorities and well qualified women should at least get an interview — even if just on the phone or by video conference. Moreover, if it comes down to two more-or-less equally qualified candidates, the minority candidate or the woman should be preferred to the white man. Fair enough, I say, because the policy does not call for the less qualified to be hired over the more qualified — with all the potential pitfalls that can arise from there. And hey, all else equal, surely going for increased diversity is better than flipping a coin.
But does my university really need such a policy? And if we do, is it doing any good? I am doubtful on both counts.
Though university professors are far from perfect, they are, in my experience, more than usually aware of bias and more than usually broad minded. At the very least, they are intensely interested in seeming broad minded. Indeed, faced with a candidate who is a member of a visible minority, I suspect most university professors would make a point of being particularly open to the candidacy, if for no other reason than to allow themselves hearty self-congratulations later on.
The ethnic diversity of my university faculty colleagues seems to bear this out. Cape Breton is not, itself, particularly diverse, and it is not always easy to attract candidates who may feel out of place on a small, sparsely populated island where they are less likely to meet others with the same religion, linguistic backgrounds, or cultural traditions. Nevertheless, the university is far more culturally diverse than the surrounding community. I have colleagues from around the world and who follow a variety of religious traditions. The university is also one of the few places in Cape Breton where alternative sexualities can be openly discussed and displayed without fear of unwanted social consequences.
As for women, female faculty abound here, and not just in the arts, but in many science disciplines, too. The inequities that remain seem primarily a result of the fields that women choose to pursue — which may be a problem in itself, but not one likely to be helped much by affirmative action. I was on a Philosophy hiring committee once, and of the twenty-five applicants, only one was a woman. Why don’t women want to be philosophers? On the other hand, female candidates have always been taken seriously on the hiring committees that I have served on, and when it comes to continuing positions in my department, they have been evenly split between men and women — at least since I’ve been here.
Still, diversity in the ranks doesn’t proves the policy is unneeded. It could be a sign that the policy is working. But I doubt it. First of all, the affirmative action policy is trumped by Canadian law which privileges Canadian citizens and permanent residents; recent immigrants, who may often be minorities, are often neither and get pushed aside. Moreover, the policy does not cover every element of diversity, only visible minorities, persons with disabilities, and women. In other words, the policy does not help you if you are gay or of a minority cultural group that is not visibly different (as with Jewish people of European descent, for example).
More importantly, the policy only applies to you if you self-identify for the equity initiative. This makes a certain amount of sense, of course: you can’t necessarily recognize a member of a visible minority when you can’t see the candidate. And you really don’t want a committee trying to guess. In practice, however, surprisingly few candidates self-identify, especially women. I’m not quite sure why this is. Perhaps they feel that self-identifying makes them look weak in the eyes of the committee. Or, they may feel that they don’t want special treatment — that they want the job only if they are clearly the best candidate. So, if the job-seekers don’t want affirmative action, whose interests does it serve?
Finally, at the end of the process, the committee still chooses the best candidate. If that candidate is a member of a visible minority the policy was never needed; if she is not, the policy does not apply. In theory, the affirmative action policy might force a committee to consider a candidate they would have dismissed, only to find out he was great and hire him after all, but while I would welcome such an outcome, I have never seen it happen. Similarly, there could be a theoretical tie between two very good candidates, and the minority applicant would be chosen, but, again, while I would have no problem with that, I have never seen that happen either.
So while the current policy has little or no effect, a tougher policy would achieve more diversity only at the cost of fairness and academic quality. And how much more diverse than the surrounding community does the university need to be? But who knows, maybe this hiring committee will be the one. We professors are unusually open-minded, you know.