“How can institutions think strategically about equity, diversity and inclusion and leverage it to enhance its academic mission: research, teaching, and innovation?”
This was just one of the many important questions that were discussed at the inaugural event of the Race, Equity & Action Speaker Series, organized by the Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office (ARCDO) in the division of Human Resources & Equity. This series provides an opportunity for members of the U of T community to engage in critical dialogue on racial equity, diversity and inclusion within institutional culture. The first event was held at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy on October 31, 2019, and was live-streamed, with viewing parties occurring at all three campuses and within the external community.
The event was opened by Michael White, Special Projects Officer in the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, followed by welcoming remarks from Professor Kelly Hannah-Moffat, Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity. “Ongoing education is pivotal in strengthening and embedding the values of equity, diversity and inclusion in the institutional culture,” said Hannah-Moffat. “Today is a great opportunity for us to build on our knowledge and get inspired with new insights and best practices from the broader community.” This sentiment was echoed by Nouman Ashraf, Professor and Advisor to the Dean as Director, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion at the Rotman School of Management, who introduced the speaker Dr. Lisa Coleman, Senior VP for Global Inclusion and Strategic Innovation and Chief Diversity Officer at New York University.
The importance of institutional culture was central to Dr. Coleman’s presentation on Increasing Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Hiring, Admissions and Culture. Dr. Coleman encouraged those present to reframe racial equity, diversity and inclusion as an asset to the organization. Dr. Coleman encouraged the audience to shift efforts from an individual focus to an institutional one and asked everyone to reflect upon the questions: “What is our culture? Who are we as an institution – what are our values, organizational biases and strengths?” Dr. Coleman encouraged participants to use the answers to the questions to inform how to strategically leverage our diverse community and achieve new levels of excellence and innovation, while advancing a culture of belonging and support. To illustrate, Dr. Coleman shared practical lessons and examples from her extensive experiences at increasing racial equity, diversity and inclusion at Tufts, Harvard and New York University.
An audience Q & A, led by Jodie Glean-Mitchell, Director of the Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office, followed the presentation. The overall message from Dr. Coleman to members of the U of T community was that equity, diversity and inclusion strategies were vital for institutional growth, innovation and excellence. One key takeaway from Dr. Coleman was to remember that while working towards those goals, people in the institution have different levels of knowledge in the area but capacity can be built throughout the organization through education. Dr. Coleman reminded attendees that accountability was important and that each person, office and division has a signficant role to play in the process of advancing meaningful change.
The next event of the Race, Equity & Action Speaker Series is happening Monday, November 25, at Hart House and is featuring Dr. Shaheen Azmi, Director of Policy, Education, Monitoring, and Outreach of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Dr. Azmi will be presenting on Responding to Race-based Human Rights Complaints: Understanding Institutional Responsibility and registration is open now. The third and final Speaker Series event will take place Wednesday, January 22, 2020, at the Multi-Faith Centre where Rabbi Julia Appel will be presenting on Addressing Antisemitism in 2020: Increasing an Inclusive Postsecondary Environment.
Left to right: Michael White (Office of Indigenous Initiatives), Saimah Baig (ARCDO), Nikki Samuel (ARCDO), Karima Hashmani (Equity, Diversity & Inclusion), Jodie Glean-Mitchell (ARCDO), Kelly Hannah-Moffat (VP, HR & E), Dr. Lisa Coleman, Nouman Ashraf (Rotman)