I’m Pam, Viminitz’ research assistant.
In light of the upcoming free online conference on EDI and Academic Freedom, I thought it might be beneficial to offer those interested but not conversant a lay-of-the-EDI landscape.
Please note that neither Viminitz nor I are involved with organising this conference, nor are either of us a panelist. We’re just interested in the topic.
I’ve heard a number of people say EDI just means don’t be an asshole. I’m beginning to see this argument-to-the-hand-wave as a performative contradiction.
What is EDI? At its bare bones, EDI is 1) affirmative action on steroids and 2) a bid at global market competitiveness. EDI seems to have coincided with “wokeness,” along with whatever phenomena — academic and popular — have been blowing in the social & political winds. The year 2020 accelerated these winds. EDI and EDI-related phenomena (e.g. micro aggressions; implicit bias) not only intensified, but also garnered an added layer of militancy. This militancy is parasitic on political polarisation. And now that academic freedom is being portrayed as a ploy of the alt-right, this pillar of the modern university is — at the least regarded with suspicion by, and at the worst under assault by — the largely left-leaning body of academics in universities. This situation makes criticisms of EDI within academia difficult, if not (in some cases) impossible. Hence, some fear EDI and EDI-related phenomena are becoming orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is anathema to scholarship, is it not? This answer requires more than a hand wave.
On point with EDI and academic freedom, see the “Equity, diversity and inclusion at Canadian Universities: Report on the 2019 Survey” — Universities Canada. Academic Freedom.”
I’ve blogged about this report, here. You may want to refer to this blog post to view the pertinent excerpts from the report, 1) (p.9) and 2) (p.33) below. Or you can access the report directly at the link above. But here’s the problem I lay out:
Consider the following excerpts from the survey, (1.) see [page 9] and (2.) [see page 33], taken together: If academic freedom is a barrier to EDI (2.), and if university presidents are personally committed to (1.) “being an EDI advocate and championing EDI principles and values,” then it seems to follow that university presidents are personally committed to removing (or limiting) academic freedom as a barrier to EDI.
What follows are some links that’ll give you a background on EDI’s origins, implementation, and ongoing demands. These links are followed by docx documents that you are free to download and use as you wish. One is a directory of Canadian Universities and their respective EDI and EDI-related offices. The other, a sampler-bibliography as a snap-shot of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in Canadian universities.
A few important federal players:
- I don’t think there’s anything peculiar about a Liberal government rather than Conservative or NDP government implementing EDI. EDI emerged on the global stage, and its implementation in some form or another may have been inevitable. However, it was Kirsty Duncan, a Liberal MP, who formally ushered EDI into Canadian Universities. You can read the chronology of EDI events concerning Duncan, here.
- You can read about Ian Shugart’s 2021 Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity, and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service. As well as SSHRC, NSERC, and CIHR’s answers, here. At this link, you’ll note I’ve flagged my interest in mandatory training required by each of these federal granting agencies. You can check out one of the videos used in mandatory Civility and Respect training, here.
- Shugart’s successor, Janice Charette, claims, “Much more is needed’ to combat racism and improve diversity in Canadian public service.” Hunt, Mia. “‘Much more needed’ to combat racism and improve diversity in Canadian public service, says chief,” Global Government Forum, 23/08/2022, https://www.globalgovernmentforum.com/much-more-needed-to-combat-racism-and-improve-diversity-in-canadian-public-service-says-chief/, accessed April 12, 2023
- Charette “said most government organisations are “taking concrete action to do better”, she added that “much more is needed”, including recommitting to “listening to diverse voices” and celebrating those who are leading and embracing change while “tackling mindsets” that are hesitant or resistant to it.”
- I’d like some examples of the kinds of mindsets Charette thinks need tackling, what this tackling entails, and what is meant by hesitant or resistant.
- Do critics of EDI and/or Anti-racism initiatives hold the mindsets that Charette worries are “hesitant or resistant” to her [Shugart’s] Call to Action?
- If so, can scholars who are critical of these initiatives expect to hold Canadian Research Chairs?
EDI and the research granting agencies:
For an overview of EDI, including the Dimensions charter, see the first section of my Implicit Bias guest post, this blog, here.
Here are some pertinent documents:
- Best Practices in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Research, CRC Committee, Government of Canada, https://www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca/funding-financement/nfrf-fnfr/edi-eng.aspx?wbdisable=true#wb-cont
- NSERC guide on integrating equity, diversity and inclusion considerations in research, https://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/NSERC-CRSNG/Policies-Politiques/EDI_guidance-Conseils_EDI_eng.asp
- Tri-Agency EDI Action Plan for 2018–2025, https://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/InterAgency-Interorganismes/EDI-EDI/Action-Plan_Plan-dAction_eng.asp
- Creating an Equitable, Diverse and Inclusive Research Environment: A Best Practices Guide for Recruitment, Hiring and Retention, https://www.chairs-chaires.gc.ca/program-programme/equity-equite/best_practices-pratiques_examplaires-eng.aspx
- Frequently Asked Questions about the Self-identification Questionnaire, https://science.gc.ca/site/science/en/interagency-research-funding/policies-and-guidelines/self-identification-data-collection-support-equity-diversity-and-inclusion/frequently-asked-questions-about-self-identification-questionnaire
- Canada Research Chairs Program Self-Identification Form, https://competitions2.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/sites/CHAIRS-EDI2_CHAIRES-EDI2/993/home-accueil.aspx
A Directory of Canadian Universities and their Respective EDI and EDI-Related Offices
Feel free to use this directory as a template of your own — whether you are a proponent-of, opponent-of, dispassionate-about, or simply curious-about — EDI.
I realised late in my project that I should have added women and gender departments as they appear to be big drivers of social justice activism. You might want to add these links where they’re missing.
I encourage you to visit a few universities, particularly larger universities — such as UBC, SFU, and McGill — and punch in terms such as diversity and oppression. You’ll quickly see the overwhelming project of trying to capture the scope of EDI and related phenomena in Canadian universities: e.g. speakers, presentations, workshops, petitions, courses, programmes, publications, appointments, scholarships and other funding, diversity surveys, faculty, hiring, employment, policies, student initiatives, committees, chairs, grant, and awards.
A Canadian Universities Critical Race Theory-sampler bibliography:
Critical race theory (CRT) is part and parcel with EDI. CRT is also at the centre of public controversy both in the US and Canada. So, for the sake of the interested public and for researchers, I’ve spent the past six days putting together a “sampler” annotated bibliography.
What follows is FAR from comprehensive, but will help give the-simply-curious the lay of the CRT-land. For the-serious — whether proponent-of, opponent-of, or dispassionate-about — CRT, perhaps you’ll find something useful here. Feel free to build on this bibliography to your suiting.
Bear in mind the size of a programme (or network or initiative), large or small, doesn’t necessarily reflect its efficacy and influence.
Categories: Guest Posts
As in many other countries, EDI has replaced Christianity as Canada’s official religion. So it becomes risky and costly to be a heretic.
And ‘religion’ is NOT rhetorical. I think it’d be interesting to analyse EDI as a possible Great Awakening, a religious revival.
Anyway. One strategy to survive within this system is to display fealty, even to the point of ridiculousness. For example,
Meet: Will Valley, a white, cis-gender heterosexual man and Associate Dean of EDI, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, UBC.
Valley says he knows, “it is counter-intuitive to have a white, cis-gender, heterosexual man in a position of power and visibility associated with EDI.” And so Valley has a colleague interview him in order to explain his “rationale for applying for and accepting this position.”
You can read the interview here: “A white, cis-gender heterosexual man as Associate Dean, EDI in LFS?,” Faculty of Land and Food Systems, The University of British Columbia (UBC), https://www.landfood.ubc.ca/a-white-cis-gender-heterosexual-man-as-associate-dean-edi-in-lfs/, accessed April 12, 2023
This interview has me on the floor holding-my-sides every time I read it, but especially choice is the following passage:
“There are affective patterns of white desire that we are neither aware of nor willing or able to let go of. These desires make us libidinally attached to the promise that we are entitled to unrestricted and unaccountable autonomy, epistemic and moral authority, and the universal arbitration of justice and common sense. This summarizes what whiteness is all about. The “rearrangement of desires” that will be necessary if we want to interrupt these patterns and engage in other ways of knowing, being, and relating will require the appropriate message, the appropriate messenger, the appropriate medium, and the appropriate moment to become possible.”
Some EDI proponents think EDI-talk makes people ‘uncomfortable’, as if talking about race and whiteness is so hard. Rather I suspect these proponents, at least sometimes, are misreading cringes.
Regarding Will Valley’s interview in my previous comment. There will be people nodding in agreement with Valley, as if what he’s said means something. Because to them, it feels like it means something. As for these peoples’ responses to my laughter… You’ll find Valley’s defenders who say he means well, of which they have no proof. And others annoyed by the profanity of my laughing at the sacred. Which makes me profane. But this laughter also skirts close to the official prohibited humour list, if it doesn’t land smack on it:
INSIGHT Form. “Harassment, Discrimination, and Bias/Hate Incident Anonymous Submission Form,” Human Rights Advisory Services, Queen’s University, https://www.queensu.ca/humanrights/in-sight-form, accessed April 6, 2023.
Reportable behaviours include: “Microaggressions”; “Offensive jokes and/or teasing based on protected group status (e.g., gender, race, sex, etc.)” ; “Systemic”; and “Other Behaviour”.
I won’t embed the video here because it takes up too much space, but John McWhorter addresses the religious component of this movement in his keynote address: Understanding the New Politics of Race, Equiano Project, Jan 27, 2023, You Tube. Easily found.
McWhorter’s keynote is worth a listen in its entirety. But starting at 13:51, he hits upon the religious aspects. McWhorter notes that the “extreme prosecutorial” anti-racist won’t open up to other views, because in her mind there are no other views.
I’ll point out here that a lot of EDI-work goes into cleaning peoples’ minds and mouths out with soap, getting rid of unclean and impure thoughts and language; e.g. implicit bias and microaggressions. (And putting the right thoughts in.*) So, anything that smacks of an unclean idea is perhaps ejected rather than rejected.** Rejected assumes a thoughtful evaluation of an idea before it is let go. Ejected, that the idea is bounced right out.
Perhaps my assertions about the sacred and profane are something like what McWhorter is on about when he says these extreme prosecutorial types are,
“impregnable, they’re utterly unreachable. ” He goes on to say at about 16:29, the only way to keep society from being turned upside down by this religion is that …”we have to have the bravery to tell people like this ‘no’.” He notes that by saying no, one will get called names, like a racist — “a certain kind of noise that they’re going to make”. And sometimes worse. So saying no requires some courage. What he suggests is to be a stand up person, to be a mensch. (18:17) Not to be a super hero, but to “do the right thing,” stand up to these people. McWhorter says they can’t help it, but they need to be stood up to. “This kind of person needs to be stood up to,” or we’re going to live under conditions like what we saw with Stalin, minus the violence. He warns not to be deceived by the deployment of terms such as anti-racism and social justice. Of this religion, “it must be stopped.” Because, he warns, “our lives and our society are on the line.”
Of course I am reporting on just the last segment of McWhorter’s keynote, which I hope some will watch through for context. And some background on McWhorter.
* You’ll find a lot of “say this instead” to-replace-your-biases in the EDI-realm. A quick example is the CRC Unconscious bias training module, which you can take here: https://www.chairs-chaires.gc.ca/program-programme/equity-equite/bias/module-eng.aspx?pedisable=true
** “Bigots may deliberately use vague language or misappropriate the struggles of marginalized groups to advance their offensive cause. Their language is couched in pretend innocence that is designed to convince the naïve and to provoke divisive reactions. We are not fooled.” —— Brandon University (BU), The BU Statement on Inclusion, https://www.brandonu.ca/diversity/bu-statement-on-inclusion/, accessed Jan 6, 2023
What worries me here, is the deployment of “we are not fooled” in a scholarly community — and is by “pretend innocence” meant… arguments, questions, criticism? Scholarship?
I said: “EDI seems to have coincided with “wokeness,” along with whatever phenomena — academic and popular — have been blowing in the social & political winds. The year 2020 accelerated these winds. EDI and EDI-related phenomena (e.g. micro aggressions; implicit bias) not only intensified, but also garnered an added layer of militancy. ”
Here’s an example from a post I published yesterday, “Canadian University Student Petitions: Race, Oppression, CRT,” https://keepinganeyeonedi.ca/2023/04/14/friday-reading-list-14-04-2023-theme-canadian-university-student-petitions/
Most petitions occurred in 2020.
Inclusive and Antiracist writing exercise (say this instead of that):https://www.lib.sfu.ca/about/branches-depts/slc/writing/inclusive-antiracist-writing/exercises