Building Equity, Diversity and Inclusion within the VPFO

Last year as part of our Executive curriculum I received reading materials and a link to a website from Harvard University that uses some simple tools to test your unconscious bias on a variety of topics. I tried the tests and was impressed by what I found on topics like race, gender, age, etc. I shared this website with some of the VPFO team at one of our breakfast meetings and it sparked a conversation about how we could improve our respectful and inclusive environment in the VPFO and UBC.

Since then, a lot has happened in the world and our university to bring unconscious bias, systemic racism, and other related equity and inclusion conversations to the forefront. The field of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) has expanded at UBC with our Equity & Inclusion Office helping the university draft our first Inclusion Action Plan.

To accelerate our efforts, Professor Ono has led three specific activities that are rapidly shaping how this conversation is unfolding:

  • He made a clear declaration of the university’s intention to work together against racism and injustice and began a process to gather more information — including an external review, of our campus security services to examine these for systemic bias and institutional racism.
  • He has brought speakers to the university to help leadership understand the issues (you can read the excellent book, The Equity Myth to share some of the topics we covered).
  • He has tasked each vice-president with reporting to him regularly on our progress with both the Inclusion Action Plan goals and EDI in general.

Here at the VPFO, we are ramping up our engagement with this process:

  • We just had our first substantial meetings of our EDI Committee since our COVID disruption. From this we have basic terms of reference and are beginning to move forward.
  • One of our first steps we’ve identified is to build out a training and engagement platform for the portfolio that, like the Harvard website, can start some conversations and align us to common goals. After a thorough procurement process, we have retained Adeline Huynh from “the commons” who will in the coming months help us design and implement our EDI training and engagement program across the portfolio.
  • We are also nearing the start of our external review of Campus Security services. UBC, through a comprehensive procurement process, has retained the services of Rubin-Thomlinson, LLP. The external review will consider the policies that govern the operation of Campus Security. It will also look at the processes and procedures that govern how Campus Security Officers respond to incidents on the campus. I encourage all of us to take the opportunity to participate in public engagement portion of this process.

These first steps show that our opportunities for transformation are tremendous and the risks of not moving quickly are high. Our journey together into EDI is one I am looking forward to and ask you to embrace it with me. This will be one of the first opportunities we have to go forward as a one team, as we outlined in our strategic plan. Together we can improve the way both we and the university grow and change.