Four Canadian Faculties of Music:
A Preliminary Investigation into Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and De-colonization in Post Secondary Education
Prepared by Cynthia Lê & Sara Shifaw
University of Western Ontario
This website has been developed to present the research findings from our Undergraduate Student Research Internship project. On this website, you will have access to the emerging themes we have selected to share from our analysis of four Canadian faculties of music. On this home page, we have outlined why we engaged in this research topic and provided reflection questions for readers to engage in before exploring the website.
Throughout this website, we have hyperlinked pages we reference as well as a references page with our list of citations. To begin exploring our work after viewing our home page, select our Emerging Themes column in our menu bar to view our research outcomes.
Thank you in advance for engaging with our work.
---- Cynthia & Sara
The world received a much needed and long overdue wakeup call after witnessing the police brutality resulting in the murder of George Floyd on May 25th, 2020. On May 27th, 2020 people in the United States of America began protesting against police brutality and the mistreatment of Black people. Protests continued throughout the summer of 2020 and in response many institutions of higher education felt the need to respond to these protests and the social climate. In reaction, institutions began releasing statements aligning themselves with protests of Black Lives Matter, while reflecting internally on their own institutional values. Training sessions, committees, and task forces on equity, diversity, inclusions, and de-colonization were initiated across institutions.
Western University, however, had begun their work prior to the summer 2020 call to action. Their call to action occurred closer to home after English professor Andrew Wenaus used a racial slur while teaching a course in October of 2019. By February 2020, Western’s President Alan Shepard initiated Western’s first President’s Anti-Racism Working Group. Wenaus later released an apology letter in response to the scandal that circulated across social media platforms. By September 2021, many faculties began implementing their own reactive working groups such as Western’s Don Wright Faculty of Music’s Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization (EDI-D) Task Force.
Challenges & Purpose
In institutions of higher education, working groups, designated to topics of equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization are long overdue. Throughout our analysis of public websites we noticed that many of these initiatives, including those that we are a part of, were established as a reaction to current events. However, it is unclear whether these groups will develop lasting impact upon their institutions and academia at large, or if they will shortly be forgotten as the trend of activism slowly disappears and a new trends surfaces. It is also patently clear that these working groups present certain challenges and issues that might not be present in other working groups. Our experience as student representatives on our faculty’s EDI-D Task Force has given us the opportunity to more closely experience and internally analyze the culture of our faculty’s task force and led us to consider how institutions are responding to this call for action. There are a variety of challenges present in working groups similar to the ones on which we have served.
Firstly and based on our experience, we believe the representation and leadership of individuals equipped with expertise on these topics and this work to be essential for the success of such working groups. It is crucial that we consider what skill sets and perspectives are present within these working groups. Thus, when formulating groups, institutions must also consider the outcome if Indigenous, Black, people of colour (IBPOC) are not a part of these voluntary groups. It is also essential to recognize that for IBPOC it can be extremely taxing to join these groups which, in turn, may affect the student representation within these working groups. In addition to the vulnerability that comes with being an IBPOC in these discussions, it can be challenging to have these discussions with faculty members who hold our education in their hands. Another challenge present in these working groups is a resistance to change, resistance to criticism, and as such, at times these become spaces that serves to uphold white fragility.
While those who join the working group may have good intentions we are all on different journeys and have varying levels of knowledge on these topics. For the IBPOC students this may then mean correcting moments of ignorance within the group, all of which can result in an echo chamber with faculty members agreeing with one another. Our experience has led us to recognize that much of this can be avoided with at least one expert in EDI-D work present in these groups; someone who is able to guide the group through conversation and assist in implementing actions of change. Without realizing these challenges, EDI-D working groups might possibly prolong institutional changes and, worse, serve to reproduce structural inequities.
In the following pages we provide an analysis on these topics/conversations through our lens as two Asian and African Canadian students with lived experiences and personal connections to these matters. Our concern is that these topics are too often raised as a reactive response and rarely discussed in a proactive way, and the perspectives of IBPOC students are often undervalued, not heard, and at times viewed as radical. However, we hope our emerging analysis provides readers, leaders, and institutions with both a new take and approach towards shaping spaces for a better experience for all students.
The following research questions guided our research:
1) In what ways are institutions indigenizing their spaces and implementing anti-racist policies?
2) In what ways are institutions considering conducting curriculum reviews through the lens of anti-racism and indigenization?
Methods of Study
Our approach to this study was qualitative. The process began by choosing to look at four institutions: the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto, McGill University, and Western University. Our rationale for choosing these four universities was based on their reputable music faculties and their diverse populations. We accessed their public documents such as syllabi, course descriptions, event calendars, published articles, strategic plans, released statements from students and faculty, and their online social media platforms. As we analyzed this data using qualitative document analysis (Altheide, Coyle, DeVriese, & Schneider, 2008) we took note of emerging themes. And while time did not allow for a full comparison of each institution, we were able to uncover overall themes and briefly examine in what ways each are similar or dissimilar (Cousins & Bourgeois, 2014; Khan & VanWynsberghe, 2008). As we engaged with institutional documents we also realized that we needed to account for the authentic student experience, which led us to explore the media of students who attended or currently attend these institutions. Finally, choosing a media format to present our emerging findings on a website allows this project to exist as a living document with which we can continue to engage.
Positions of Power
An issue that emerged while reviewing public documents is the necessity of acknowledging positionality when engaging in EDI-D conversations. We would like to present our positionality to inform our readers of the lens through which we viewed and evaluated the public data we read. We are two cisgender women who identify as Asian, and Black Canadians. Our ethnic backgrounds are that of Vietnam and Ethiopia. We have the privilege to be studying at the University of Western Ontario as well as the privilege and financial support to conduct this research through Western’s Undergraduate Summer Research Internship.
We ask that you take a moment to consider your positionality before exploring our analysis throughout this site. We have listed a few prompting questions below for you to reflect on to consider your individual positionality.
How do you acknowledge your position of power?
How do you use your position of power to help break down barriers with and for IBPOC?
What privileges do you hold that affect the lens in which you view EDI-D?
These questions are important to consider in a variety of settings, from classroom discussions to dinner table conversations: What is your position of power?