McGill’s first-ever Strategic Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Plan was endorsed by the University’s Senate and Board of Governors, last month. The document, a result of months of consultation with hundreds of McGillians, will enhance the representativeness of the University’s community while striving to ensure equitable opportunities and a sense of inclusion and belonging for all.
The five-year plan is centred on five key themes (student experience, research and knowledge, outreach, workforce, physical space) with a view to accounting for (EDI) considerations in all core University activities.
“The idea behind this plan was to bring an EDI focus to all of our main efforts in relation to the University’s academic mission,” says Angela Campbell, Associate Provost (Equity and Academic Policies).
The strategic plan includes numerous EDI objectives – notably increasing representation of underrepresented groups among professors, students and administrative and support staff – with benchmarks and accountability mechanisms to follow up on their implementation.
“It really is going to take our entire community to make sure that the plan and all of the objectives that it sets out are achieved,” Campbell adds. “Implementing the plan will be an ongoing process so feedback and insight about where the University’s EDI focus should be is always welcome. We’ve been grateful for the community’s engagement with the topic so far.”
The equity plan includes a number of objectives tied to Indigenous initiatives, in line with the Report of the Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education, such as ensuring that “Indigenous-Led and Indigenous-Partnered research respects and benefits Indigenous peoples and communities.”
The culmination of years of work
Tynan Jarrett, McGill’s Senior Employment Equity Advisor who helped draft the new plan, says that many of the targets it sets – such as increasing student financial aid significantly – were informed by EDI work over the last few years.
“We recognize that previous piecemeal approaches to EDI weren’t sufficient, but they did help to build this new document,” Jarrett told the Reporter. “Our hope is that this new plan will support positive change across the university in a way that is more cohesive and that builds on past efforts from within in the McGill community.”
Some of the included targets reflect changes being made to how research is being conducted in postsecondary institutions across the country, a process accelerated last year when the federal government announced that EDI targets would increasingly be tied to research funding.
“Higher education has had a systemic underrepresentation of people from various groups, there’s a long history of it. This is a first step in addressing this through EDI in research,” says Uzma Jamil, the University’s Senior Research Equity Advisor. “As a public institution, it’s our responsibility to produce knowledge that benefits society as a whole, but to do that, we need to be inclusive.”
Researchers to study McGill’s ties to slavery and colonialism
With the McGill bicentennial just around the corner, the University has also decided to acknowledge the darker sides of its history by hiring two postdoctoral fellows to study McGill’s historic ties to slavery and colonialism.
“We know some things about James McGill having owned slaves, but we need a fuller, clear understanding of our institution’s ties to colonialism and slavery,” Campbell says. “The work of these postdoctoral researchers is going to help McGill University know its own past and think about programs and initiatives that will provide restoration for harm and reconcile relationships especially through creating opportunities that centre Black and Indigenous students, faculty and staff.”
Jarrett, who’s been doing EDI work within the University for more than a decade, says that the new Strategic EDI Plan and postdoctoral positions are signs of positive change within McGill.
“I find it an exciting development. I have noticed a culture shift within the past decade, and I do believe we can continue to make positive change at McGill” he said. “It makes me hopeful.”