President’s Diversity and Equity Committee Aims to Keep KPU Inclusive

The Committee meets every month to help implement Diversity and Inclusivity Policies

Nicole Kwit

Universities Canada, an organization dedicated to providing a unified voice for post-secondary institutions across the nation, has released its Inclusive Excellence Principles and a corresponding action plan to promote and foster inclusivity on Canadian campuses.

The principles and action plan detail how to increase diversity amongst students, faculty, and university administration. They specifically focus on career advancement, the dismantling of barriers to education, and awareness of the importance of inclusivity in post-secondary schools.

“The university mission of excellence in research, teaching, and community engagement is most successful when all members of the university community are supported in achieving their potential,” writes Pari Johnston, Vice-President of Policy and Public Affairs for Universities Canada, in an email sent on Nov. 13. “By endorsing the Inclusive Excellence Principles, university presidents are publicly signaling their commitment to advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion on campus and in society, and to demonstrating progress.”

Though it remains to be seen whether individual universities across Canada will begin adopting the Inclusive Excellence Principles, Kwantlen Polytechnic University established its own Diversity and Inclusiveness Policies and Procedures via the President’s Diversity and Equity Committee in 2014.

“Real, meaningful enactment of diversity principles, inclusivity, and equity—it should be an institution-wide effort,” says KPU English instructor Romy Kozak, who also serves as the committee’s Director of Diversity.

The committee, which meets every month, consists of students, faculty members, and representatives from the KPU administration. Committee members are encouraged to introduce initiatives relating to equity or diversity that they can help put into practice at the university.

Kozak feels that the committee “reflects the importance with which our President [Dr. Alan Davis] holds diversity and equity.”

“It’s something he participates in and chairs. He’s really actively involved,” says Kozak, adding that “it’s really important for us to have clear goals related to diversity and inclusion and equity embedded in [KPU’s 2018 strategic] plan.”

One of the most critical ways that the President’s Diversity and Equity Committee upholds its mandate is through its events fund. By taking applications twice a year, it helps fund various events on campus relating to equity, inclusion, and diversity.

A few of the projects that the committee members have helped fund in 2017 are the Somali Youth Summit in May, the Health and Wellness Convention in September, and a student fashion show that included gender-neutral designs. They are also supporting speakers for KPU’s new Indigenous Community Justice lecture series led by instructor Lisa Monchalin.

Other goals of the committee include furthering trans inclusivity in the form of registration and admission practices and creating non-binary facilities on campus. Registration and admissions practices are being looked at to determine the validity of requiring an individual to state their gender when applying to the university.

In the committee’s action plan for gender inclusive washrooms, the focus is “making sure the new construction includes them, particularly for the KPU Surrey Spruce building, Wilson School of Design, and Civic Plaza campus.

“However much we do, we can always do more. We can do a lot more,” says Kozak. “I think the will is there and now we need to have some of the infrastructure to put things into action.”

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