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Sheridan continues to take action against racism

Mar 22, 2021

Following yesterday’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Sheridan is providing an update on the decisive and deliberate steps it’s taking to create an inclusive campus that embraces the rich diversity of Sheridan’s community. This work is foundational to fostering a strong sense of connection, respect for people’s rights to belong and equal opportunity to engage, thrive and succeed.

Over the past nine months, Sheridan has been working to address the inequity, injustice and marginalization that students and alumni – particularly from our arts programs - have shared. We recognize that their experiences are products of decades of systemic structural and institutional failures – including our own – and that we have an obligation to act.

Mandatory training on unconscious bias, anti-oppression and anti-racism was implemented last summer for all employees and an institution-wide employment systems review is underway to embed diversity and inclusion into recruiting and hiring practices. An independent, expert-led equity assessment of our Faculty of Animation Arts and Design that began in October 2020 has resulted in recommendations that are being actioned. Our cumulative actions include:

Employment

Sheridan has placed several employees on administrative leave and launched formal investigations into allegations of violations of Sheridan’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Sexual Violence Policy.

Within the Honours Bachelor of Music Theatre Performance program, eighteen new part-time/partial load faculty members were recruited; we have a total of twenty BIPOC faculty members in the program this year. Two full-time faculty positions were filled under the auspices of a special program framework to attract Black and Indigenous faculty and help to address the under-representation of racialized groups.

In March 2020, all employees were required to participate in Sheridan’s first-ever self-identification census that captured six domains of diversity (gender, race and ethnicity, Indigenous self-identification, physical ability, sexual orientation, and faith/creed). The resulting report, published to our Inclusive Communities webpage, provides a baseline to contribute to our efforts to leverage the diversity, perspectives and lived experience of everyone in our organization.

In December 2020, Sheridan joined Industry Canada’s 50-30 pledge which calls on organizations to diversify the members of their boards and senior management positions to achieve gender parity – or 50% representation - and to attain significant representation – 30% - of other under-represented groups, including racialized persons, people living with disabilities (including invisible and episodic disabilities), and members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Sheridan has met these targets.  Similar targets are part of the Black North Initiative which Sheridan joined in July 2020. We continue to work toward those targets and have achieved its additional goal of providing unconscious bias and anti-racism training for all employees.

Scholarship program

Across Sheridan in the fall 2020 term, 513 students benefitted for the first time from a new bursary for Black students. One hundred and fifty (150) students in most need received $1,500 each, 67 students received $1,000 each, and the remaining 296 students received a bursary in the amount of $250. In total $366,000 was distributed.

Ease of reporting

Sheridan rigorously observes and adheres to documented processes that afford every community member due process. The Centre for Equity and Inclusion is Sheridan’s centralized entryway for reporting and addressing discrimination and harassment concerns and complaints. Sheridan has a strong and clear Discrimination and Harassment Policy (last revised January 23, 2020) which creates role clarification amongst various Sheridan departments/offices when it comes to jurisdiction and complaint-handling and underscores the duty of managers, supervisors and instructors to act when they know, or ought reasonably to know, that discrimination or harassment has occurred.

The recommendations of the recent equity assessment will see the addition of proactive processes for identifying equity-related issues, public assurances about the right to raise concerns and the mechanisms to ensure one’s safety and the addition of equity-based questions on faculty evaluations and student surveys.

Addressing trauma, exclusion and inequity

As outcomes of the equity assessment, Sheridan will develop a resource that provides guidance on how to respectfully engage with trauma and identity in art and design, and that reflects a commitment to exercising compassion for students’ experiences. We will institute clear measures to better enforce the existing practices in place that address transphobic behaviour, including misgendering and deadnaming. We will also implement greater support and protection of non-majoritarian religious and creed- based expressions, while ensuring continued protection of the competing rights of other equity-deserving groups.

Cultural awareness

Our “Expanding the Lens” training and awareness series has brought in industry guests to lead workshops on anti-racist theatre (October 2020), contemporary Indian dance (November 2020) and three-part series on cultural responsiveness training (December 2020 – March 2021).

Curriculum

Our programs go through an established review cycle, which includes an examination of curriculum. As an outcome of the assessment, we are in the process of enhancing the process, beginning with our arts-based programs, to add an inclusion lens for re-thinking canonical staples and diversifying curriculum materials to include a range of perspectives.

Sheridan firmly believes that diversity fuels excellence and we condemn racism, hatred, and discrimination in all of its forms. As a community of educators, learners, researchers, and leaders, we hold ourselves accountable for addressing and preventing racism, racial inequality and injustice in our communities, on our campuses, and in our classrooms.

Sheridan is firmly committed to fostering an environment that recognizes the dignity and worth of every member of our community. We have much work to still do but we are dedicated to building a better Sheridan. We call on every member of our community to join us in our important work.

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