Photos by Catherine Goce
By: Donna Nadeem
On Jan. 22, Arig al Shaibah, the associate vice-president (Equity and Inclusion) with the McMaster equity and inclusion office, held an event in the Mills Library Connections Centre centered around McMaster’s “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Framework and Strategy.”
During her term, al Shaibah plans to engage with local and historically underrepresented and marginalized communities to understand and learn about their challenges.
She hopes this awareness will enable her to build strong ideas and strategies to advance the equity and inclusion goals at McMaster.
The event begin with al Shaibah’s presentation on McMaster’s EDI framework and strategy.
McMaster’s EDI framework is broken down into four pillars: institutional commitment and capacity, educational content and context, interactional capabilities and climate and compositional diversity and community engagement.
The first pillar aims to “mobilize McMaster’s commitment and capacity to advance inclusive excellence by establishing and resourcing structures, systems, policies and processes that facilitate equity, diversity and inclusion leadership, governance and accountability.”
The second pillar seeks to strengthen academic programs, practices and scholarships to ensure they “demonstrate relevance… to diverse local, regional, national and global communities.”
The third pillar focuses on improving the McMaster community’s ability to foster a culture of inclusion and an environment where members feel “a sense of dignity and belonging.”
The fourth pillar aims to engage marginalized communities on campus, enhance employment equity, and improve student access and success amongst historically underrepresented students and community members.
“Not everyone here feels included, so even among our diverse [community population], some of us may feel included and others not, in part because of inequities that exist,” said al Shaibah.
Al Shaibah explained an action plan that would help facilitate the development of the EDI plan.
Some of the points included developing goals across the institution and faculties and integrating the EDI into academic programs and self-reported student experiences, strengthening complaint resolution from harassment and discrimination complaints and increasing training for McMaster community members and committees.
Throughout the presentation, al Shaibah spoke in abstract terms, not outlining specific initiatives that the university will undertake take to improve student access and success amongst marginalized students and training for McMaster community members.
After the presentation, the floor was open for students to express concerns and feedback.
Students asked for more clarity about McMaster’s plans to meet the objectives stipulated in the EDI.
Even after students pressed further, Shaibah still failed to clarify what in particular she would do to work to combat the problems she raised.
One student expressed concern over the fact that his friend who is of Indigenous descent was not able to obtain a Teaching Assistant position for an Indigenous course while a student who was not of Indigenous heritage successfully secured the position.
Al Shaibah responded that if the candidates’ qualifications were equal, the Indigenous students’ application should have been prioritized.
Students also asked about whether other universities have implemented this EDI framework and whether it has been successful for them.
Al Shaibah said that some schools have explored strategies similar to this, but have not pursued an ‘across the board’ strategy that applied to faculties across the entire institution.
In addition, students asked how they could get involved with the implementation of the strategy.
According to Al Shaibah, McMaster students can promote the EDI framework through clubs and the McMaster Students Union. Students can also contact McMaster’s equity and inclusion office at firstname.lastname@example.org.