Data on di­ver­sity to drive Ry­er­son de­ci­sions

Hopes to break down bar­ri­ers to learn­ing

StarMetro Toronto - - Toronto - Brian Fitz­patrick

Ry­er­son Univer­sity has moved to track di­ver­sity on cam­pus, as schools across the coun­try come un­der scru­tiny for hav­ing too lit­tle data to make in­formed de­ci­sions.

The new Stu­dent Di­ver­sity Self-id sur­vey is vol­un­tary, cov­er­ing un­der­grad­u­ate and grad­u­ate stu­dents. It will also be bro­ken down by pro­gram. Data on in­di­vid­u­als will not be used, and stu­dents can refuse to an­swer ques­tions.

Ta­mar My­ers, of the school’s eq­uity and com­mu­nity in­clu­sion of­fice, hopes the end re­sult will be pro­gram­ming that’s more re­flec­tive of the groups be­ing served, rang­ing from In­dige­nous and racial­ized pop­u­la­tions to women to peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

More data is key to elim­i­nat- ing bi­ases, said An­thony Mor­gan, a Toronto hu­man-rights lawyer who spe­cial­izes in is­sues of racial jus­tice. “Racial­ized stu­dent groups are re­ally frus­trated with what they see as bar­ri­ers to more for­mal in­clu­sion,” he said. “They feel de­val­ued and point to the fact that there’s no track­ing. Or when there’s track­ing, there’s no pub­lic re­port­ing.”

My­ers said Ry­er­son’s project has been two years in the mak­ing, guided by con­sul­ta­tions with stu­dent groups. A sim­i­lar em­ployee-fo­cused project launched in 2014 pro­vided “valu­able” data and in­formed many de­ci­sions, My­ers said. “Af­ter we rolled out the em­ployee one, we knew we wanted to do the same for stu­dents,” she said.

Mem­bers of Uni­ver­si­ties Canada — a group that lob­bies for uni­ver­si­ties at the fed­eral level — com­mit­ted last month to a seven-point di­ver­sity blue­print that would de­velop stronger ac­tion plans on cam­puses, in­clud­ing bet­ter data.

In early 2016, the Univer­sity of Toronto be­came the coun­try’s first univer­sity to openly com­mit to com­pil­ing race-based data on stu­dents, but its sur­vey is still in de­vel­op­ment.

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