Students concerned about lack of diversity in university administration

Some students have expressed concerns about the lack of diversity in Mount Allison’s governing body. The administration continues to be male-dominated and there is no racial diversity within the senior administration, making it difficult for some students to connect with them or for the administration to fully understand the needs of all students.

Shannon Power, an organizer of Divest MTA, stressed the importance of having diverse perspectives in decision-making bodies. “I feel like [the administration’s] focus on financial interests and not on the lived experiences of marginalized peoples comes from a lack of diversity,” Power said.

Divest MTA has been lobbying the university’s governing body for three years to take Mt. A’s investments out of the fossil fuel industry.

“I honestly feel like members of the administration come from such privileged backgrounds that either they don’t understand the gravity of what is happening to people as a result of climate change and our complicity in not stopping it, or they simply don’t care,” Power said.

Multicultural Organization and Social Arena for International Cooperation (MOSAIC) member Saniya Korhalkar said that “the lack of diversity in the administration is often an overlooked issue” that needs to be addressed. She added that she would feel more connected to the administration and its decision-making procedures if the administration were more diverse in  race and gender.

Adam Christie, director of student life at Mt. A, said that the student population has become increasingly diverse in various ways over the past two decades. He said that, given its size and location, Mt. A has done well in attracting students from other provinces and from abroad in recent years.

Christie pointed out that currently about 30 to 35 per cent of students come from outside of Atlantic Canada and nearly 10 per cent are international. He said that “for a small university in a small town, we do a good job on the diversity front.”

Christie added that diversity of all sorts is as important within the staff and faculty, as it is within the student body.

“The more we can work toward achieving that, the more we are reflective of today’s reality and of our student population,” he said.

The university does not keep statistics about the diversity of its staff or faculty. Human Resources Consultant Katherine Devere-Pettigrew said that Mt. A is not a federally regulated institution and does not need to keep such statistics.

“We are not required to keep self-identifying data in regards to employees, nor do we ask applicants to identify themselves in the application process,” she said.

Devere-Pettigrew explained that staffing at Mt. A happens without favouritism or discrimination. She said that staffing processes almost always involve search committees, which she said “tend to be diverse.”

Devere-Pettigrew said that “a lot of diversity is not necessarily apparent” and not always easy to recognize, adding that knowing the staff on a personal level makes one recognize the various forms of diversity better.

“[I have worked] here for over nine years and I know people who have worked here and speak different languages, have different disabilities or come from different cultures, and not all of those things can be pointed to by an observer as diverse criterion,” she said.

She added that there are no specific measures in the hiring processes in regard to the diversity of staff. Devere-Pettigrew said that search committees often hire the most qualified candidates, regardless of the applicants’ backgrounds.

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