September 1, 2020

Equity

Dear AMPD colleagues, students, alumni, faculty, staff and community partners:

I hope this message finds you and your families and communities in good health and spirits during the current circumstances. I know that the conditions necessitated by COVID-19 have lasted much longer than expected and I am grateful for your continued resilience and widespread generosity shown by people throughout AMPD over the past six months.

Of course, we also know that the coronavirus has affected different areas and communities disproportionately. It has both exacerbated and revealed long-standing inequities, many that were evident long before the current crisis. The last few months have been especially challenging for those working across the arts. This work is important, but even in good times, can be precarious.

Over the course of my first year at AMPD, I have had the opportunity to meet with students, alumni, faculty, instructors and staff who have shared some of their personal experiences with racism and other systemic barriers to their advancement and success, at AMPD, as artists, and more broadly. I am grateful to everyone who has taken the time to share their experiences and ideas with me directly, and through staff in the Dean’s office, department chairs and others. These conversations are never easy and too many of the efforts thus far have fallen to those who have been affected most.

I have been working to develop a Faculty-wide action plan that will directly address anti-Black racism, and further, will continue to advance equity initiatives across AMPD. To support this work, we will be drawing on with supports across the University as well as partnering with the Kojo Institute (https://kojoinstitute.com/), who will advise our efforts to develop an inclusive and responsive equity framework for the Faculty. My hope is that this process ensure that all our efforts are thorough, inclusive and lasting. My priority is to ensure that all AMPD voices are heard and included as part of a comprehensive community engagement about our collective path forward. The goal is not to create unanimity, but to implement a process and a structure that supports meaningful change that will be significant, systemic and sustainable for us all.

Although the tasks ahead are not easy, I look forward to doing this good work with all of you. I will be sharing more specific information about the AMPD community engagement process in the coming weeks, but in the meantime I wanted you to have a sense of where we are today.

The following commitments & actions are underway.

Diversity in Faculty Hiring

As you may have read in the recent update from the President and VP Equity, People and Culture on 31 August, York will be undertaking a University Equity Plan. As part of this and other initiatives, I’m pleased that AMPD will be able to participate in the University’s hiring plan to increase representation of Black Faculty at York. We will also continue our efforts to recruit and support Indigenous and other faculty of colour in our new hires and continuing faculty this year and beyond. This year, we will be searching for both tenure-track hires and CLA appointments that specifically target BIPOC artists and scholars.

Increasing BIPOC Student Support

  • Office Hours: I will continue to hold regular open office hours for students and faculty. I will continue to make these available to all community members with regular sessions specific to hearing from BIPOC-identified faculty, staff and students.
  • Scholarships: Working with Advancement and generous donations from members of AMPD and beyond, we have been able to increase available funding for merit-based entrance scholarships targeting BIPOC-identified students. I am also working on a new interface that will make navigating the available scholarships, bursaries and awards easier for students to quickly access the funding opportunities available to them.
  • Student Group Support: Financial support and mentorship (including relevant support faculty advisor) will be made available to support a pan-AMPD BIPOC student group. Planning for this group is underway and details will be circulated soon.

Ongoing Anti-Oppression, Anti-Racism Training

York currently offers REDI workshops (Respect, Equity, Diversion, Inclusion) to members of the University community. Many members of AMPD have already taken one or more of these workshops and I encourage others to take advantage of these resources. Those of us in the Dean’s Office will be participating in anti-oppression training this fall, including workshops suggested and led by current BIPOC students in AMPD. I’m grateful for these students’ initiative and willingness to collaborate in this work with me and my office.

Coordination with Department-Based EDI Committees

Departments across AMPD have formed their own responses to equity concerns, including committees to review existing curricula, representation and other processes in support of equity and inclusion at the department level. Some departments have clearly articulated action plans and are in active consultation with their students, alumni, faculty and staff members. The Dean’s Office will support these efforts as needed, while remaining in close conversation and coordination with department Chairs. I want to emphasize that our goal is to coordinate and work collaboratively within established collegial governance and will work to ensure that these efforts are inclusive.

Proposal for EDI Committee in Faculty Council

In accordance with our governance policies, I will be proposing a motion in the first Faculty Council to strike a temporary committee to review our current policies and procedures related to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion within the Faculty and to make recommendations on next steps and future initiatives.

Open Dialogue

If any community member would like to reach me directly on these or any issue, please send an email to:  deanampd@yorku.ca.

Community members who would like to share concerns confidentially with my office may do so here: https://ampd.apps01.yorku.ca/machform/view.php?id=100600. Please note that if requested, we will keep comments and questions confidential unless required by law to do otherwise. However, some circumstances may require further sharing of information. If you provide contact information, you will be contacted prior to any further action.

University resources available to all community members in need of assistance include:

The Centre for Human Rights Equity and Inclusion (REI)
416-736-5682
rights@yorku.ca

The Office of Student Community Relations (OSCR)
416-736-5231
oscr@yorku.ca

The Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education (the Centre)
416-736-5211 (24/7)
thecentre@yorku.ca

Employee Wellbeing Office (Human Resources)
416-736-5491
ewb@yorku.ca

Thank you all for your continued engagement, support, and commitment to AMPD and each other. I know that the current circumstances are challenging for all of us in different ways, but I nevertheless look forward to working together with you on these and all other initiatives.

Looking forward,
Sarah