ML EDI Statement
Maple League PILLAR
Equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging
Committing to Action
Over the past year, social justice movements have exposed inequalities and injustices related to anti-black racism, residential schools and reconciliation, the #metoo movement, islamophobia, trans- and homophobia and other forms of discrimination. We stand in solidarity with colleagues and communities that have been historically excluded. This is also a time to commit to concrete action.
While work is ongoing across the Maple League, we know that there is a great deal more to be done. The harms of residential schools and other colonial practices, anti-black racism, islamophobia, and other forms of discrimination are embedded in institutional structures -- and these harms have been enacted for centuries. Indeed, the horrors committed at Indian Residential Schools across Canada were done in the name of education. Universities, therefore, have an inherent responsibility to acknowledge and address our own complicity as we work towards justice, truth, and reconciliation.
The path towards repairing these harms, dismantling systemic inequities, and re-thinking structural, institutional and hegemonic systems is not straightforward, nor is it a matter of a few policy changes. We are on this journey for generations to come.
Here are some of the actions we worked towards from June 2020 to present (November 2021), acknowledging there is much work to be done and many lessons to learn on this journey as individuals, institutions, as a consortia, and through our diverse communities of practice:
1. PROGRAMMING: Maple League programming has focussed on EDI with clusters of events (webinars, panels, and synchronous sessions) addressing anti-racism in academic spaces. In the 2020 - 2021, for example, the Better Together Sessions (weekly) and the Maple League Hosts (monthly) programming offered a series of webinars with topics that included discussions on anti-Black racism, practicing anti-racism in academic and community spaces, and decolonization. Programming reached over 600 stakeholders across 47 universities.
2. STRATEGIC VISIONING: We have engaged in EDI strategic visioning regularly, including facilitated sessions in August 2020 with external facilitators/experts, strategic visioning through consultations with EDI taskforce chairs (Winter 2021 term), inviting Lara Hartman (Maple League Indigenous Student Fellow) as a guest speaker to the Maple League Presidents Council (April 30, 2021), and through the Maple League Teaching and Learning Committee (MLTLC) week-long strategic retreat with discussions of EDI and culturally responsive pedagogies (June 2021). We continue to consult, listen, and change. We do so by trying to sit in the discomfort of this process and listen, learn, and share.
3. BOOK CLUB: In the Fall 2020 term we hosted an inter-institutional book club focusing on anti-racist pedagogy across the four campuses and beyond. The book selected was So you want to talk about Race? by Ijeoma Oluo. Over 40 participants are engaging in identity work and sense-making of racism in their own lives and communities. In Winter 2021 we adopted Anthony Jack’s Privileged Poor: 75 participants - divided into 5 small group sessions - met six times over the semester. Acknowledging the complexity of these topics and the importance of building allyship, we brought in external consultants with lived experience and expertise to lead discussions, including Crystal Watson, El Jones, and Tari Ajadi. The sustained, multi-session approach was met with enthusiasm from many of the participants who reported their transformative journeys of allyship were enriched through these safe and brave spaces. Winter 2021 saw 60 faculty, staff, and librarians (divided into 5 groups) take part in six book club meetings to read Mi’kmaq scholar Dr. Marie Battiste’s Decolonizing Education: Nourishing the Learning Spirit. Each of the five sections were hosted by representatives from the MLTLC, and we discussed how to move toward decolonization from within, and outside of, positions of institutional power. For the Winter 2021 Book club we will be reading Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to Do Instead), in the hopes that it will help to identify ways in which current systems of grading increase inequity.
4. CALLS TO ACTION & NATIONAL DIALOGUES: The Maple League joined the national National Dialogues and Action for Inclusive Higher Education and Communities (October 2020) and ensured that all four institutions signed on as institutional partners. The Maple League supported the Scarborough National Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion, and provided feedback to the National Dialogues and Action Inter-Institutional Advisory Committee. We cannot do this work on our own and must tap into larger dialogues to learn from experts and advocates who have been doing this equity-seeking work for years.
5. STUDENT PARTNERS & AMPLIFYING STUDENT VOICES: Hiring Student Fellows for anti-racist, decolonizing, and belonging initiatives has been a guiding principle in the design and delivery of the Maple League Student Fellows Program. For example, Lara Hartman (Acadia University) took the lead as the inaugural Maple League Indigenous Student Fellow (2019 - 2021); Tanisha Campbell (Bishop’s University) tackled the role Maple League Student Fellow for Knowledge Mobilization, working on increasing representation on HIPs for BIPOC (2020 - 20021); Nathaniel Benjamin (Mount Allison) supported programming for mental health, teaching and learning, anti-black racism and student athlete experiences (2020 - 2021). We also worked with post-graduate fellows on inclusion, BIPOC retention strategies, and accessibility to High Impact Practices (HIPs).
6. SHARED EVENTS: The global pandemic has given us an opportunity to connect in virtual spaces that would not be as easy to connect in person. Two such events that engaged communities in important conversations about EDI include: 1. October 4 Sisters in Spirit event hosted by Acadia and shared across the Maple League; 2. A Maple League Racial Justice Symposium hosted by Mount Allison (Ivan Okello and Adam Christie) in February 2021. Sharing resources and connecting to larger networks within and beyond the four universities. In the Fall of 2021, St Francis Xavier University hosted several professional development workshops under the title Black Students Matter. Two keynote lectures, by Dr. Gloria Ladson and Dr. Joy Mighty, were opened to faculty and staff across the consortium.
7. STUDENT AFFINITY GROUPS: The Maple League hosted a series of affinity group meetings (Tatum, 2019; Pour-Khorshid, 2018; Blitz & Kohl, 2012) for first-generation students, Indigenous students, and BIPOC students to meet and build community across our four institutions. “Both the academic literature and the current iterations of this practice have suggested that educational affinity groups are a powerful tool for identity development, mental wellbeing, and social justice advancement” (https://journals.library.columbia.edu/index.php/cswr/announcement/view/275)
8. COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE: We have connected the chairs of the EDI Task Forces on each of the four campuses to explore current and inclusive practices, support shared events like the October 4th Sisters in Spirit event (Acadia), co-designing collaborative summits such as the Racial Justice Symposium (Mount Allison). Staff members with EDI portfolios have formed a community of practice for sharing good practices and exploring collaborations.
9. CURRICULAR DESIGN: Maple League courses are hosted by one institution and available to students from the other three universities without additional fees or administrative costs. These courses are recognized on student transcripts with a grade, which is particularly appealing to students on merit-based scholarships and/or intend to pursue graduate studies. A number of Maple League courses have been approved and delivered that have a strong EDI focus: examples include the recurring MIKM 105 ‘Mi’kmaw Language’ course (St. FX), Dr. Jesse Popp’s ‘Land-based Indgenous Ways of Knowing’ course (MtA), Dr. Jamie Sedgwick’s ‘Justice and Genocide’ and ‘Gendercide: Genocidal Histories of Gender Crimes and Sexual Violence’ courses (Acadia), Dr. Tobi Roberts’ course ‘Teaching, Pedagogy, and Technology in Courses’ (MTA) and Dr. Jessica Riddell’s ‘Shakespeare’s Guide to Wicked Problems’ course (BU).
10. Co-CURRICULAR PROGRAMS: The Online Learning and Technology Consultants (OLTC) was created by Dr. Riddell in June 2020 to help faculty prepare for Fall 2020. They underwent training on Students as Partners (SaP) literature, empathetic design, pandemic pedagogy, High-Impact Practices, and authentic learning design. After their training—which included online modules, simulations, faculty mentorship, and technology training—the program launched in July 2020. The program was expanded across the Maple League universities and has created EDI audits for faculty, support for decolonization, training for accessibility and accommodations, and created culturally responsive modules.
11. DECOLONIZATION FOR EDUCATION ABROAD Maple League International Teams Collaborate on Decolonizing Outbound Student Mobility: Representatives from the international offices of the Maple League universities were successful in securing $800,000 from Universities Canada for to decolonize education abroad. The Maple League universities will provide an opportunity for Indigenous students to participate together in an international experience through a short-term study abroad program engaging with Indigenous cultures in Belize. This collaboration builds institutional capacity to decolonize education abroad and lead conversations around inclusion, decolonization, and accessibility through inter-institutional collaboration on international initiatives.
There is more we must and will do. The path towards equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization requires a sustained and ongoing commitment from each of us – and together we can be better.
As institutions of higher learning, we are committed to educating ourselves through evidence-based research and design. We will continue to design, deliver, adapt, and assess our path informed by research and good practices; we also commit to valuing different forms of knowledge to create new ways of knowing.