Policy-level interactions

Creating campuses that are equitable and inclusive requires a closer look at the underlying policies in consultation with members and students from different communities. A policy provides the framework for program design and determines how services are delivered. Embedding principles of equity in all policies and planning processes is a crucial step toward targeting discrimination and violence, promoting social inclusion, and enhancing access to resources.

Some things to think about when developing policies such as gender-based violence policies, mental health policies, accessibility policies, etc. include:[1]Canadian Federation of Students. (n.d.) Campus Tool-Kit for Combatting Racism. Retrieved from: https://cfs-fcee.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Anti-Racism-Toolkit-Final-1.pdf

  • Will these policies hinder students’ ability to organize around and/or raise awareness on issues impacting their communities and other political organizations?
  • What steps will be taken to ensure that all students feel safe and comfortable?
  • Considering that Indigenous students, racialized students, international students and LGBTQ2S+ students are less likely to disclose or report instances of harassment, sexual violence and discrimination, what are ways that the policies can support students, but still maintain a level of confidentiality and safety?

How can a policy enhance student safety on campus?

As described earlier, the practice of self reflection, our individual interactions, and the programs we work within, all have a role to play in creating feelings of safety. These levels of engagement are influenced by the policies in place.

  • Policies such as codes of conduct, anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, equity and inclusion, etc. strive to address discrimination associated with race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, physical and/or mental health disabilities, etc., along with strategies and action plans detailing their implementation.
  • Policies should be clearly publicized at various points throughout the campus, be present in all meeting areas, social spaces, and learning environments, as well as online, and clearly outline the risks associated with misconduct.
  • With regular review of the code, and a clear commitment from the
    leadership team toward its execution, students may experience its effects during campus life.

How can a policy promote social inclusion?

Policies that promote social inclusion speak to the importance of representation in the educational environment. Creating such policies requires that it be representative of different opinions and does not carry assumptions about any particular race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental health disability, etc. Truly committing to this work requires a combination of the strategies discussed already and collaboration with persons with lived experiences and members from racialized communities. Some ways in which campuses have worked toward enhancing feelings of social inclusion include:

  • Ensuring guest speakers are reflective of the student body on campus and within the classroom.
  • Structural changes, such as naming buildings in Aboriginal languages and creating spaces for Elders-in-residence.
  • Amending core curriculum requirements to include a course on the history of Indigenous culture.[2]Guo, S. & Jamal, Z. (2007). Nurturing Cultural Diversity in Higher Education: A Critical Review of Selected Models. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 37(3), 27-49. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ799706.pdf
  • Having all-gender washrooms on campus with signage indicating the space is inclusive and that the college or university respects everyone’s right to choose the washroom that is appropriate for them.

How can a policy create access to economic resources?

  • Consider the recruitment methods being utilized. How are marginalized communities that have historically experienced lower postsecondary enrollment rates being supported? This could include funding opportunities, access to academic advising, and emphasis placed on extracurricular activities.
  • Once on campus, students need to have access to financial resources in order to participate fully in activities. We discussed earlier the limited employment opportunities that Indigenous students can access. Consider how current employment policies for roles on campus may block students who have limited work experience, especially international students, and whether these opportunities provide supportive options. Changing the structure of these role will enable students to increase access to resources and support their participation in campus life.

Ultimately, an effective policy identifies discrimination, violence, social exclusion, and economic marginalization as persistent realities with harmful effects. It identifies the benefits of equity, consults with community members, specifies the actions to be taken, the responsibility held by decision makers, plans for implementation, and how individuals will be held accountable.[3]Lopes, T. & Thomas, B. Dancing on Live Embers: Challenging Racism in Organizations. Between the Lines: Toronto, Canada. Furthermore, creating a commitment to equity on campus requires investments in human resources, program development, budget, board functions, and strategic planning.[4]Strange, C. C. & Coz, D. H. (2016). Serving Diverse Students in Canadian Higher Education. Canada: McGill-Queen’s Press The Health Equity Impact Assessment tool may be used to guide this process.

References

Canadian Federation of Students. (n.d.) Campus Tool-Kit for Combatting Racism. Retrieved from: https://cfs-fcee.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Anti-Racism-Toolkit-Final-1.pdf
Guo, S. & Jamal, Z. (2007). Nurturing Cultural Diversity in Higher Education: A Critical Review of Selected Models. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 37(3), 27-49. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ799706.pdf
Lopes, T. & Thomas, B. Dancing on Live Embers: Challenging Racism in Organizations. Between the Lines: Toronto, Canada.
Strange, C. C. & Coz, D. H. (2016). Serving Diverse Students in Canadian Higher Education. Canada: McGill-Queen’s Press
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