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EDI at BCcampus: A Snapshot of Today

Equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) aren’t milestones — they’re the fundamental components required to create a welcoming culture for everyone. At BCcampus, we are working toward creating a workspace that people interested in improving teaching and learning in B.C. seek out, a place where they know they are welcome because of their differences, not in spite of them. This article is to share some of the activities we’re working on so we can repeat what works and learn from what doesn’t. At BCcampus, our approach is “Learning. Doing. Leading”, and with regard to EDI, we’re still in the learning (and unlearning) stage.

Post by the BCcampus editorial team

This article is not a how-to guide for post-secondary institutions in B.C. to implement an equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) program within their respective institutions; it’s a bird’s-eye view of what we are, have been, and will be working on to improve EDI at BCcampus. It’s more of a mosaic than a roadmap because we don’t know exactly where we’ll end up, but we want to see everything along the way. We expect that we will have missteps, misstarts, and misunderstandings, and we’ll learn as we grow, and as we know better, we’ll do better. The consequence of doing nothing is just too high.

Our initial goals about improving our awareness and understanding of EDI were to:

  • Unlearn our harmful beliefs and behaviours and begin the process of seeing ourselves and others differently. 
  • Shut up and listen. 
  • Slow down our action-oriented ways and allow ourselves the time to carefully engage in the work in ways that made us able to take it in and change our thinking. 

A Starting Point

“In early 2017 we increased our focus on decolonizing and Indigenizing our work,” said Mary Burgess, executive director at BCcampus. “It really began in earnest when we received funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training to launch the Indigenization guides project, an openly licensed, widely used resource. Some of our Indigenous colleagues use the metaphor of pulling together in a canoe, and if you read our guides, you’ll see that before we get into a canoe with other people, we have to prepare ourselves for the journey so we can be a good team member. This means being honest with ourselves about who we are and what we believe: unlearning harmful and untrue things about ourselves and the world around us. If we don’t take this step in the journey, we can’t support each other as the harder learning comes along.”

In October 2019 we hired Dr. Lisa Gunderson of One Love Consulting to lead us through a session to help us define equity, diversity, and inclusion as they relate to BCcampus. Dr. Gunderson taught us the importance of creating our own definitions internally so they resonate with us and enable us to be truthful with our work, community, and relationships.

In May 2020 we had our first meeting with Cicely Belle Blain, CEO and principal consultant at Bakau Consulting. Our goal was to complete an audit to show us what we were doing well and identify where we needed improvement. At the same time, we surveyed our staff to assess our current community, establishing a baseline to help guide our decisions.

Our Learning Lesson Plan

We are working across several different areas to improve our ability to deliver an equitable, diverse, and inclusive experience to anyone who encounters BCcampus. While this isn’t a comprehensive list, it does show a glimpse into what we’re doing and why we’re doing it:

Hiring

To help us attract members of the community who can help us learn and grow, we’ve updated our job postings to focus more on competency and less on academic evaluations. We have substantially changed our hiring process, choosing new and more relevant spaces to advertise our open positions, and for some new roles, the interview process includes sessions with the existing BCcampus team, a presentation from the interviewee about their thoughts regarding the role they are applying for, and an interview panel made up of senior management and BCcampus personnel. The change added a considerable amount of time and energy to the process, but everyone who applied shared that they appreciated the level of engagement. The successful candidates have already demonstrated that they are passionate, energetic, and committed to improving teaching and learning in B.C. 

We’ve also created a directory of local subject-matter experts to help us with specific projects, whether it’s for knowledge transfer or for creating materials for our website and conferences: a repository of EDI experts to share their work, talk about their experiences, and advise us on what we can and should do. 

Training

We are launching EDI training opportunities for our internal staff to help them overcome unconscious bias in their day-to-day, taught by experts with the experience and awareness to help us transform our organization.

Celebrations

We have started an organizational calendar to recognize holidays for different cultures. This isn’t to have a token celebration each day; it’s to recognize that our community is composed of a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs, and we want everyone to feel comfortable celebrating what they choose to celebrate. 

As a way of enabling people to take days off that are meaningful to them versus dictated by the dominant culture, we have put together a Statutory Holiday Substitution policy, enabling BCcampus employees to move their stat holidays to different days.

Measurement

To understand what is working — and what isn’t — we have made measurement a core component of each of our projects. Our EDI working group is developing an effective metric to show how we are progressing with our EDI process and objectives. We aren’t expecting to see a quantitative value represented by percentages or graphs, rather a clear marker that we are moving in the right direction.

The Book Club Hub

In fall 2021 we are launching the BCcampus Book Club Hub, an outlet for leaders looking for tools and resources to take to their institution to enact change, with the support and guidance of peers in the hub. The objective is to create a conversation and framework with an activist perspective. The first book in the hub is How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. 

“Success for anti-racism is a tough thing to measure,” shared Olaolu Adeleye, learning + teaching advisor at BCcampus. “We think about reach, and how many people, then scope, but ultimately it’s what the individuals do and how they have made the ideas their own. Success isn’t about reading a book; it’s about the reflections, areas of growth, and new trajectories needed to get where we need to go.”

Progress Over Perfection

The journey of EDI is never-ending. We may have to backtrack to fix things we’ve done wrong — we know they’ll happen – but we have to begin somewhere, and we need to start now. We encourage you to do the same, and we’re here to offer support, advice, and resources should you want to work toward improving equity, diversity, and inclusion personally and professionally for yourself, your team, and your organization.

Notable Quote(s):

“Within EDI, the conversation of race, culture, society, and reconciliation can be seen as siloed or competing instead of being appreciated through the nuances of intersectionality that can be attributed to each. When we continue to promote, highlight, and prioritize decolonization and anti-racism, understanding that these are not monolithic, we also must be mindful about the narratives shared from primary subjects. By using these terms correctly and contextually, we authentically elucidate the voices of those who [historically] haven’t been invited to the table. Otherwise, our performative acts become a matter of tokenism, co-opting the issue to show that we’re complying, purchasing resources, and receiving certifications instead of prioritizing (less quantifiable) steps to actually ingratiate ourselves with the problems and those who are experiencing them. But this is the essence of a decolonized and antiracist approach — it is underpinned by an alternate definition of success, espoused through a knowing, learning, being, and doing that is of the heart and the head.”

– Olaolu Adeleye, advisor, learning + teaching, BCcampus 

 

“Creating an effective program to improve EDI takes time and effort. It is difficult, and it’s a challenge to get all the people to do the work. It may feel like it’s time and effort that could be spent on projects, but the thing is, this is a new reality and the expectation of the future of the workforce. As boomers retire and millennials and Gen Zs take their place, employers will find more and more that employees expect their workplaces to be woke. And the employees should expect their employers to create a better workplace. Our system and our workplaces are designed with a very small demographic in mind, and that means the workplace, as well as our education system, do not work ideally for the vast majority of people. I think we can do better than that. We must do better than that, and we need to start today.”

 – Mary Burgess, executive director, BCcampus

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The featured image for this post (viewable in the BCcampus News section at the bottom of our homepage) is by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels

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