Who's Represented in Canadian Teaching and Learning Centres?

Who's Represented in Canadian Teaching and Learning Centres?

Danielle Gabay (University of Toronto, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4097-7.ch010
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Abstract

As teaching and learning centres within Canadian universities have rapidly evolved and expanded over the last few decades, various aspects of these institutes have been researched and described, such as the history of the centres, the work of staff members, and the function and offerings they provide. However, information has not been gathered with regards to the diversity of social identities of those personnel (i.e., faculty, staff, students) working within Canada's teaching and learning support centres, nor has data been collected on a large scale with regards to personnel's conceptions of diversity. This chapter explores perceptions and experiences of diversity within these centres. The findings reveal a need for more diversity awareness, leadership intervention, and critical thought surrounding the concepts and practices of diversity in Canadian teaching and learning centres.
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Introduction

Within the last couple of years, U.S. college campuses have seen a surge in student activism amidst escalating tension over institutional climate. Students across the U.S. —many of them in conjunction with national initiatives such as the Black Lives Matter movement— have voiced concerns on a number of equity issues, in particular, improving the campus climate, ensuring support for people of color and enhancing student and faculty diversity in higher education. At the University of Cincinnati, students gathered for a silent protest to demand more diversity on campuses. Brown University students held a rally in response to perceived university neglect of instances of racism, sexism, and other issues. Ithaca College students engage in a walk-out over racial insensitivity on campus, and at Yale University, protest erupted after an email warning about racially insensitive Halloween costumes prompted a professor to complain about censorship. The protests have also advocated for the implementation of strategies such as teaching cultural competency, the creation of cultural centers and extensive leadership changes. As a result, diversity talks have come to the forefront of higher education conversations once again—well, in the U.S. at least.

In Canada, while campus protests may not be making headlines, and campus disturbances may not make the evening news to the same degree, diversity related conversations have re-emerged particularly in response to the findings from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Call to Action, 2015). The report was released in late 2015 outlining the societal and educational injustices that have been inflicted upon Indigenous peoples for decades. Shortly after its release, universities and colleges across Canada began announcing and highlighting their commitment—or re-commitment—to equity, and to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, as well as noting the crucial role of postsecondary education in the process.

Canadian postsecondary institutions are generally viewed as tolerant, diverse and inclusive, often seen as a microcosm of larger society. Institutions often boast their commitment to building inclusive communities, promoting equity and celebrating their rich diversity. However, there is a dearth of studies at the postsecondary level that interrogates these concepts of tolerance, diversity, and inclusion, in a Canadian context. More specifically, few studies look at race and ethnicity in the context of teaching and learning centers1. Most studies on the issue of diversity in Canadian teaching and learning centers have a limited scope of diversity (e.g. diversity of disciplines; diversity as accessibility; diversity of access; etc.) (Potter & Wuetherick, 2015; Marquis, 2014). These studies look at the consequences of diversity and they often neglect the theoretical reflections or notion of the concept of diversity. Thus, as Canadian university populations continue to grow more diverse, there is a particular urgency for postsecondary institutions to understand and strive to ensure that diversity (i.e. various forms of diversity) is evident and entrenched in all areas.

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