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Ryerson aims to make diversity part of its DNA

unch and learns have become commonplace at many companies and institutions, but Ryerson University--located in the heart of downtown Toronto-has introduced an interesting twist to the practice. Ryerson’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion holds monthly soup and substance sessions and, as the name suggests, soup is always on the menu, but the substance changes from month to month. The office has sponsored lunch-time panel discussions on race and racism in the Canadian context, Aboriginal knowledges, and identity based on such things as country of origin and sexual orientation. Initially, says Dr. Denise O’Neil Green, Assistant Vice-President and Vice-Provost Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, the sessions attracted 60 to 70 people.

“We really embrace the values of diversity, inclusion and equity in ways I haven’t experienced before.” – Brandon Smith, Coordinator of Residence Life and Education

“Now,” she says, “we have standing room only. They provide a safe space where members of the community-students, staff, faculty and members of the public--can come together to discuss equity-related issues and to raise questions that they may have reservations raising elsewhere.”

Green joined Ryerson in 2012 and was given a mandate to provide leadership in integrating equity, diversity and inclusion throughout the university to the point where it becomes part of the institutional DNA. “My office has now started to look at different policies and practices across the organization,” she says. “We’re looking at hiring committees and the process for committees that review promotions and tenure. We’re looking at orientation for new employees and we’re looking at the curriculum and ways of integrating equity, diversity and inclusion where it makes sense.” Meantime, the university already has a number of initiatives in place to create an open and inclusive environment. Positive Space is a coalition of students, faculty and staff working to ensure that Ryerson is a safe, open and welcoming place for members of the LGBTQ community.

Last June, during World Pride Week in Toronto, the university flew the Pride flag for the first time, students performed an annual ritual when they dropped a larger version of it from the roof of the student centre, and the administration organized a competition in which faculty and staff were encouraged to decorate their offices to demonstrate their support for Pride Week. And the Positive Space coalition raised a contingent to participate in the Pride Parade. “I was part of the Pride march, not as a gay man, but as part of Ryerson,” says Brandon Smith, Coordinator of Residence Life and Education with the Department of Housing & Residence Life, “There were a lot of students and student groups as well as faculty members and staff. It was a massive group and it was very exciting.”



managers are women

Smith adds that the environment generally at Ryerson is more open and inclusive than other institutions where he has worked. “What’s inspiring about Ryerson is it’s not only open,” he says. “It encourages every member of the community to bring their whole self to work or to school. We really embrace the values of diversity, inclusion and equity in ways I haven’t experienced before.” Green adds that her office oversees a program called Access Ryerson to identify and remove barriers and to ensure that the university is open


team award for commitment to diversity & inclusion

as a place of study and work for all persons with disabilities. And the goal is to ensure that the institution goes well beyond the legal requirements set out in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act. As well, her office in 2013 established the Alan Shepard Equity, Diversity and Inclusion award—named for a former provost and vice-president academic— to recognize outstanding commitment to these principles on the part of students and employees. Recipients are entitled to awards of up to $4,000.

Proudly diverse, intentionally inclusive

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