The Dalhousie University community was informed of the vacant position in an email in January. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press) Dalhousie University is restricting its search for a new senior position to racially visible and Indigenous candidates in an effort to make the institution more diverse.
In an email to the university community, provost and vice-president academic Carolyn Watters wrote that the search for a new vice-provost student affairs is about increasing the representation of under-represented groups.
Jasmine Walsh, assistant vice-president for human resources, said while Dalhousie has done a good job of hiring diverse faculty, it has a way to go when it comes to management positions. Jasmine Walsh, assistant vice-president of human resources at Dalhousie University, says the restricted search is just one part of an effort to be more representative. (Submitted by Jasmine Walsh) "Dalhousie strives to be an inclusive space for all members of our community, and we acknowledge that this requires us to be in a constant state of learning and working within our communities to make sure that we’re living up to the commitment that we make," she told the CBC’s Maritime Noon .
According to Dal’s 2016 Be Counted census campaign , the percentage of racially visible employees increased to 11 per cent in 2016 from 8.3 per cent in 2015, with the largest gains in faculty positions.
Still, in 2016, just 1.9 per cent of employees were Indigenous.
The representation was also far less in academic management positions, with 4.7 per cent identifying as racially visible and 1.6 per cent as Indigenous.
"Based on our most recent data, we do have gaps," Walsh said. "We’re one or two people short of where we need to be in order to be representative of the labour market in relation to those positions." As Dalhousie University marks its 200th year, it’s also grappling with its problematic past. (Brian MacKay/CBC) Walsh said the university looks at data from Statistics Canada to understand who’s working in various fields, and tries to reflect that equity on campus.
The university hopes to attract candidates by reaching out to Indigenous and racially visible communities to build stronger relationships, she said.
Walsh said this approach is still about hiring the most qualified people.
"From my perspective, there isn’t a merit argument that runs counter to this. In fact, this actually is the way for us to develop the most meritorious faculty and staff population," she said.
And as the student body becomes more diverse, it’s all the more important, Walsh said.
"It’s critically important that students who are coming onto campus are able to see themselves reflected, not just in the leadership from a staff standpoint, but particularly within the classroom with our professors," she said.
As Dalhousie marks the 200th anniversary of its founding, it’s also grappling with its troubled past when it comes to race, racism and slavery.
"I think taking on this work in a public and a committed way suggests that it hasn’t been done already, and that it needs to be done," Walsh said.
"So we have work to be done at Dalhousie. There’s no questions about that, but we’re very much committed to making sure that we’re successful in our efforts going forward."
With files from Maritime Noon
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